Monthly Archives: April 2014

Gary Neville and cheating in football

The Youtube clip shown above is taken from a Sky Sports segment in which Gary Neville discusses the issue of diving (ie cheating) in modern football.

Neville is an ex professional footballer, so it would be somewhat understandable if his views on this subject were nuanced.

However, as the piece develops, it becomes clear that not only does Neville think that diving/simulation is a grey area, but that it should actually be tolerated as part of the modern game.

Below, I summarise Neville’s arguments, and offer my own rebuttals. The idea that any form of cheating should be acceptable in modern sport is ridiculous. In fact, soccer is probably the only sport I can think of in which this debate is taking place.

The only other area is which this debate sometimes arises is in the area of performance enhancing drugs, where some commentators have argued for lifting bans on such drugs, so that a level playing field is introduced.

The fact that this view is held by only a tiny minority should indicate on far off the reservation football is when it coming to dealing with cheats.

Anyway, back to Neville’s arguments:

1. They’re not cheats

Neville reckons we shouldn’t called diving players cheats, because the practice is so “ingrained” in the game, that it would be unfair to label players cheats when everybody is doing it. Even the greater players, like Messi, do it, and they’re not cheats.

Wrong. To argue that cheating is not cheating if everybody is doing it is perverse. If a golfer took an air stroke, and knowingly didn’t count it, that’s cheating. If a cricket player dropped a catch, but this wasn’t seen by the umpire, and played on, that’s cheating. This is a simple matter of definition. If a player deliberately falls over, with the express purpose of obtaining a penalty, that’s cheating. It doesn’t matter how many other players are doing it.

2. If you don’t go down, you might not get the penalty you deserve

In the piece, Neville features a small number of clips in which players are fouled but who do not get penalties, and argues that those players were disadvantaged because they didn’t go to ground.

Soccer doesn’t feature televisions judges who can review decisions and plays on the field with the assistance of video playback. While this deficiency remains, there will always be an element of luck in the decisions of the referee, which most commentators, managers and players acknowledge will even itself out of the course of the 40-50 games a professional team will play during a season.

To extend Neville’s argument to its logical conclusion, every player should dive for every tackle, anywhere on the pitch, in case not doing so results in them not getting a free if the referee misses the foul.

3. You’re damned if you do, and you’re damned if you don’t

This is actually a quote from a statement issued by the PFA, which features in the piece, and which Neville endorses.

The argument here is that with so much on the line, if a player passes up an opportunity to gain his team an advantage, even if that means cheating, the player is exposed to vilification from his club and the club’s fans.

That’s probably true, but its only true because cheating is accepted as part of the game. If clubs and players were to take a lead on this, and turn the tables, so that vilification arose from cheating, rather than not cheating, this issue would disappear.

Other sports seem to manage just fine in this regard. Has any rugby, GAA or cricket player even been vilified for not cheating?

4. Introducing retrospective punishment would result in chaos

Neville makes two points in relation to the idea that you could ban players retrospectively when video evidence clearly shows that they have cheated.

Firstly, he says that because the practice is so widespread, bans would be so numerous that it would undermine the League.

That’s complete pants. If players knew that it was likely they would get a ban for cheating, they wouldn’t cheat, so there would be no bans. Neville should look up the meaning of the word “deterrent”.

Secondly, Neville argues that if you punish players retrospectively for getting penalties they weren’t entitled to, you will also have to do something about players who didn’t get penalties they were entitled to, which is totally impractical, as you can’t re-stage games so that a penalty that wasn’t awarded the first time can be awarded.

Again this is pants. We already have a situation in which officials makes mistakes, and no action is taken, and as noted earlier, it is accepted that these erroneous decisions even themselves out over the course of the season.

Neville is simply creating a problem where no problem exists, in order to add weight to his general thesis.

As noted at the start, it is to be expected that ex-players will have slightly different views on this subject than fans.

However, when you see someone like Neville mounting a defence of what is self-evidently indefensible, it can be supposed that such views are not uncommon among players, managers and club owners.

If that’s the case, it leaves little hope that anything will be done about soccer’s cheating epidemic in the near future.

Luke Ming’s Election disinformation 2014

Its election time in Ireland, so the air is thick with disinformation. Let’s try and cut through it.

(Note: the page is entirely dedicated to Luke Ming Flanagan at this point)

1. Luke Flanagan and the Common Fisheries Policy


Luke Flanagan is featuring an image on his Facebook page which suggests that the Common Fisheries Policy has resulted in Ireland forfeiting fish to the value of €184bn to other EU member states.

Flanagan doesn’t give any source for this figure, but as with most things Flanagan comes up with, its barstool wisdom and has no basis in fact.

The only assessment of this net cost to Ireland of the Common Fisheries Policy is that carried out by the Canadian University of British Columbia as part of its The Sea Around Us project, in 2009.

The findings of this project are summarised at this link:

The were also referred to during the most recent Lisbon Treaty debate, when Ireland’s largest fisherman’s organisation, the Killybegs Fisherman’s Organisation, called for a Yes vote.

To quote from the above article:

‘An independent study carried out by the Canadian University of British Columbia in Vancouver as part of the Sea Around Us project puts the total value of fish taken from Irish waters from 1974 to 2004 at €8.5bn. During this time, Irish ships took €3.9bn from the Irish waters and €3.16bn from British waters that Irish boats have access to because they are part of the EU.

Mr O’Donoghue said that as a result of EU membership the Irish industry got aid that between 2000 and 2013 amounts to some €100 million. “The national government would not have been able to provide the aid to the same extent if we were not part of the EU,” he added.’

2. Luke Ming Flanagan and Ireland’s growth rates prior to joining the Euro

Flanagan has made the following claim on his election leaflet, and repeated during a television debate on Sunday night.

“The greatest period of real growth, averaging 8.6%, that this State has experienced was between 1993 and 1999. This was at a time when we had our own currency.”

See here:

Ming wasn’t really involved in serious politics in the 1990s, so he’s probably never heard of the European Exchange Rate Mechanism, or ERM.

The ERM was an agreement between EU member states to maintain their currency values as close as possible to a predetermined value, and was in effect between 1979 and 1999, when the Euro was finally introduced. The mechanism was put in place to achieve the necessary stability to introduce a common currency.

Each EU currency had a corresponding value in ECUs, the currency unit of the ERM. It was, in effect, the Euro without the notes and coins.

Its also worth noting that Ireland has never had any real currency independence, in that prior to joining the ERM in 1979, the Irish Punt was always pegged to the Pound Sterling.

3. Ming and the disappearing Prime Time broadcast

Screen Shot 2014-05-20 at 15.31.28


Ming went on Facebook in the week before the Election to claim that RTE had removed a Prime Time broadcast in which he featured from the RTE Player website, apparently because they are biased against him.

RTE hadn’t removed it. They had just changed the URL when they reposted a different version of the programme.

(He later admitted that he made a mistake, but didn’t acknowledge it in another Facebook post)

4. Luke Ming Flanagan on the use of liners on bogs

Ming has regularly claimed that its possible to protect the drainage systems in bogs, and therefore allow mechanical extraction, by placing a plastic liner between the parts that are cut and the parts that aren’t.

Anyone with even a basic knowledge of physics knows that this is nonsense, unless the water in bogs doesn’t obey the laws of the gravity, of you were able to place a liner on a bog all the way down to the bedrock below it.

More recently, Ming has claimed that the NPWS are actually using these liners to “prevent water leakage”.

Screen Shot 2014-05-20 at 22.32.06

The NPWS have never used liners to “prevent leakage”. They have used a liner on one bog, Raheenmore, in conjunction with a dam system, to assist in the restoration of the bog, not to allow turf extraction.

When Ming was queried on Twitter about which bog the liner was used to “prevent leakage”, he told the respondent to “Ring the NPWS”.

5. Luke Ming Flanagan on the closure of rural Post Offices

Ming has made the following claim on Facebook

“Under the EU Postal Directive it is proposed that post offices are no longer necessary as they now stand.”

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Ming is trying to suggest here that there is some new EU legislation about Postal Services in the offing. There isn’t. The last Directive was in 2008.

The thrust of EU legislation in relation to postal services is that State’s gradually reduce their monopolies on the services and open it up to competition. The latest date for full liberalisation of the market was 2012, 2 years ago.

Member states are perfectly free to continue to operate rural post offices (as evidenced by their continued existence) provided they don’t confer any advantage on State operated postal services that are not available to private companies.

You can read about the EU’s postal services legislation here:

The principle objective of the legislation is:

  • To define at Community level a universal postal service, conceived as a right of access to postal services for users, encompassing a minimum range of services of specified quality which must be provided in all Member States at affordable prices for the benefit of all users, irrespective of their geographical location

6. Luke Ming Flanagan on not breaking the law

According to this article, Ming was accosted in Galway by a man who wanted to bring him to a Garda station for breaking the law by extracting turf from an SAC, which Ming freely admits to doing.

In the article, the author explains that Ming argues with the man about whether he has broken the law or not.

Ming has broken the law in this regard, when he allows the cutting of turf on a bog where he used to have rights but which is now an SAC.

The law that he breaks is Section 35.1.b.2 of the EUROPEAN COMMUNITIES (BIRDS AND NATURAL HABITATS) REGULATIONS 2011, which available at this link (see Page 71 of the document).

In summary:

A person who, without lawful authority—

enters or occupies any European Site, or brings onto or places or uses
or releases in any European Site any animal or object, including but
not limited to—

machinery for the extraction or mining of natural resources
including, but not limited to trees, vegetation, minerals, rock, soil,
gravel, sand, turf or peat,

where such action or the use or presence on the European Site of such an animal or object is likely to have a significant effect on, or adversely affect the integrity of, a European Site, shall be guilty of an offence.


If you contract someone to extract turf on an SAC, you are breaking the law.

7. Luke Ming Flanagan and the relationship between SIPTU and Labour

In a Facebook post from May 22, the day before the election, Ming has claimed that SIPTU are “trying to save Labour’s bacon” and suggests that canvassing on the part of SIPTU for Labour candidates is a misuse of SIPTU members subscriptions.

Screen Shot 2014-05-22 at 09.04.47


SIPTU have always campaigned for and endorsed the Labour Party during elections, because as a Union, SIPTU is affiliated to Labour. This involves SIPTU paying a subscription to Labour and SIPTU voting at Labour conferences. SIPTU make no secret of this fact:

“The Labour Party traces its origins to 1912 when the former ITGWU successfully sponsored a motion at the Annual Conference of the Irish Trade Union Congress to create a political voice for Irish workers. The affiliation of the Union and Labour party in pursuit of the joint goal of bringing about progressive change in Irish society remains today.”

Ming’s suggestion that SIPTU are doing this “behind the scenes” is yet another attempt to misinform voters.

8. Luke Ming Flanagan on Climate Change

Ming attended a hustings organised by the Irish Environmental Pillar in Carrick On Shannon in the run up to the EU Parliament Elections in 2014. While answering a question about Climate Change he acknowledged that action needed to be taken to reduce Co2 emissions. The audience were left in no doubt that Ming is on side when it comes to Climate Change.

However, in a previous parliamentary question put to Brian Hayes, Ming had the following to say:



If someone believes that carbon dioxide emissions need to be reduced, why would they be questioning the scientific consensus that climate change is caused by carbon dioxide emissions?

The failure of protest

With enemies like these, who needs friends

With enemies like these, who needs friends?

I’m loath to criticise any individual who is energised enough about perceived injustices to take to the streets with a placard or a chant, but given the innumerable protests we’ve had about social, environmental and economic issues over the last few years, and the minimal impact they’ve had on policy making, it probably worth taking a cold hard look at the nature of protest as it exists today.

Let’s set the context first.

We live with something called a “24 hour news cycle”, or in other words, news is reported 24 hours a day, rather than just 4 times per day, like it used to be.

This unending stream of information has blunted people’s capacity to absorb information in anything larger than bite-size chunks. News outlets understand this, so now, rather than featuring longer pieces on fewer subjects, they feature shorter pieces on many subjects. The Journal and Summly are prime examples of this trend.

In addition to this, news outlets understand that as well as being short, their pieces also have to capture the reader or viewer’s attention, so they give prominence in the piece to whatever part of the story (a photo, a clip, a quote) is the most provocative, rather than the part that is most representative of the story as a whole.

Finally, news journalism is no longer governed by the strict code of impartiality that it used to me. Private ownership, fragmentation and the rapacious pursuit of a diminishing pool of subscribers have seen standards go out the window, which means that our news is rarely served without the thumbprints of the opinion stamped all over it.

All this is bad news for protest, the success of which is generally measured by the amount of media coverage a particular protest receives. The apparent logic is that if a protest makes the news, the target of that protest will be pressurized into acting differently.

Why? Because to make protest “newsworthy”, media outlets have to feature whatever it is about that protest that is most likely to stimulate interest in the most disinterested viewer or reader.

As such, a “protest” in which somebody drives a truck into the gates of Leinster House will always attract more media attention than if 300 people gather, march down a street and go home again.

The net effect of this is that the average viewer or reader of news is presented with a view of protest that inevitably involves extreme or outlandish behaviour, which discredits the general impression of protest, which makes it easier for politicians to ignore it.

The presents a considerable challenge for groups who rely on protest. On the one hand, they have do something that makes the news cycle, but equally they have to be careful that whatever that something is doesn’t present them as some sort of fruitcakes who nobody should take seriously.

This isn’t impossible. Large groups, like Greenpeace, who can avail of professional advice in this area, still manage to stage impactful and credible protests.

However, for smaller groups, or larger groups who don’t have the years of experience that Greenpeace has, the challenge is very real, and getting it wrong can shunt a campaign off the road before it even starts moving.

Smaller groups have additional problems when it comes to protest. Where media attention is obtained, through careful and thorough planning, and the protest doesn’t attract a critical mass of participants, the effect is probably even worse than if some member of the protest does something peculiar in front of the cameras.

A protest that was billed as a big deal, but which didn’t turn out to be a big deal, will only barely surface in the media, and the only impression the viewer or reader will be left with is that the issue can’t be that important, as nobody turned up at the protest.

A vicious circle therefore devekops. Protest loses its credibility, fewer people turn up at protests, protest loses more credibility, fewer people turn up at protests, etc etc

So what is the alternative?

The answer to resist the fragmentation of protest, and to aspire to larger groupings, who can engage the necessary level of public relations skill to make protest meaningful.

However, the opposite seems to be happening. Campaign groups tend to protect their territories like old time gold prospectors, and will resist the pooling of resources at ever turn.

The results are there for all to see. At anything other than pan-national level, protest isn’t making a difference to anything.