Owen admitted he was guilty of going down under minimal contact in his own career, most notably when winning penalties in successive World Cup finals against Argentina, in 1998 and 2002, though he maintained both challenges were legitimate fouls.
Owen’s manager, Tony Pulis, called for retrospective three-match bans to be
handed to players who dive following an incident in last Sunday’s 0-0 draw
at Anfield, in which
The Tottenham winger, Gareth Bale, was also criticised for a fall in the home win against Aston Villa when replays showed goalkeeper Brad Guzan had not touched him.
Neither player was booked, but the incidents raised perennial concerns over the increase in simulation in the English game. Suárez’s manager, Brendan Rodgers, said foreign players such as Suárez were losing out on legitimate fouls because of prejudice among referees.
Owen, perhaps England’s finest exponent of the striker’s art of drawing fouls, said that in his view blatant diving was a foreign import, but defended players who explored the grey areas inside the penalty box.
Speaking at the Leaders in Football Conference at Stamford Bridge, where he was on a panel alongside celebrated Italian referee Pierluigi Collina, Owen said: “I’d say that 75 per cent of people could stay on their feet [when they get challenged] for a penalty, and if they get touched and go down it is almost, ‘He got touched, so it’s OK to go down’.
“I have been guilty as well, I played at the 1998 World Cup against Argentina and I was running flat out, got a nudge, went down. Could I have stayed up? Yes probably.
"Then four years later you [Collina] gave me a penalty again against Argentina. Again, I could have stayed on my feet, the defender’s caught me and I did have a decent gash down my shin from it but I could have stayed up.
“It’s a very difficult subject to talk about, especially to people who have not played the game. There is a major skill in trying to outwit an opponent.
“For the actual player one-against-one, you’re trying to draw people, to commit them, to get into the box because you know as soon as you have got them in the box they are petrified of sticking a leg out or doing anything. It is a skill to get them one-on-one or isolated.
“No one is for blatantly diving, of course they are not, but there is a part of a striker that actually tries to entice the leg to come out to try to win a penalty. It is a skill and it has been done for years and years and I don’t think it will ever leave the game.
"I’m totally against diving, I have never been for it or sought to get a penalty without being touched, but you try to push the boundaries to win a game for your team without cheating.”
Owen said blatant diving had increased because of foreign influence, but said English players were now as culpable. “I’d say it’s worse than it was 10 years ago. I would have to say that, with the foreign influence of the players coming from South America, Spain, Italy.
“When I was a kid and I used to watch Italian football, you would see a lot of simulation and you didn’t really see it in England. And now English players are as guilty as foreign players of doing it. But I certainly think the foreign influence started the ball rolling in England.”
Roberto Martínez, the
“Here we see it as cheating. I had just signed this player from a Spanish club and the first game he goes past a defender and he goes down easy, and I said ’you can’t do that’. He was saying if a defender kicks me and I go down it makes the referee’s job a lot easier.”
Collina said referees should give penalties when contact is made even if the players remain on their feet. “A player has a right to fall down if a foul was committed. I understand that a player who was hit by an opponent falls down. If he falls down without any contact this is the problem and if there is no contact this is cheating.”