Yes - Adam Drury

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Had Raheem Sterling fallen over when pushed by Kyle Walker on Saturday, Manchester City would have beaten Tottenham.

And that, in a nutshell, is why we cannot insist on condemning players – Sterling included – with a penchant for penalty-area theatrics.

Players are lumbered with the prospect of enormous prize money and crippling pressure, so seeking gains wherever possible is inevitable.

And electing not to go down – alternatively running into a cul-de-sac or persevering on, unbalanced – is disadvantageous.

If hypocritical supporters who merrily jab fingers at tumbling opponents bemoan their own players not going to ground, we must accept that simulation has simply become part of the game.

Yes, diving is often an attempt to seek advantage by deception.

But the lines between that and total honesty are blurred.

Had Sterling fallen to the floor on Saturday, it would have been no surprise to see him accused of diving. Yet his passage to goal was disrupted by an obvious shove.

And too often, the presence – or lack – of contact is the deciding factor between cheat and rule-abider.

Yet when a defender aims at a boot at you, it is perfectly legitimate to jump out of the way rather than take the hit - a trick that Eden Hazard has been forced to master. 

And even if a dive is a comprehensive con job, the player knows that they risk a booking – and the threat stops nothing.

Talk of red cards, bans and retrospective action accompany the outcry when the talking point crops up every few weeks, and soon simmers down.

The fact is that the potential reward will always outweigh the risks, particularly while the said blurred lines will always render video evidence non-definitive. 

This stance, admittedly, is harsh on referees who are helpless and take the blame too often, but simulation is now part of the cut and thrust of football.

Managers, coaches and analysts pore over videos and data every day, attempting to extract every possible one per cent of gain.

Fine margins decide football matches, and football matches are extraordinarily valuable.

Maximising every possible advantage is, therefore, totally understandable.

No - Jack Green

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Yes, Raheem Sterling should have been given a penalty against Tottenham on Saturday.

Kyle Walker would have been sent off, and Manchester City would be two points better off had the England winger felt the push from behind and taken a tumble.

That’s not to say, however, that he would have been right to have done so.

Encouraging players to be dishonest on the pitch is a dangerous precedent to set when simulation has become such a widespread problem in football.

Andre Marriner got it wrong at the weekend, but his job is being made gradually more difficult by the sheer number of footballers actively looking to deceive referees.

Officials are now conditioned to expect a player to fall over whenever there is a foul.

That is why Marriner saw no need to point to the spot when Sterling remained on his feet.

Everyone acknowledges that a referee’s job is an impossible one, and the need to help them is constantly trumpeted by supporters, talking heads and managers alike.

So eradicating – or at least reducing – this epidemic has to be a priority.

But praising players for ‘clever play’ when they manufacture contact, or telling the likes of Sterling that they are ‘too honest’ for staying upright only exacerbates the problem.

The only way to assist referees is to punish those who try to con them.

Retrospective bans – like those introduced by the Scottish FA back in 2011 – would provide a much-needed deterrent.

Marriner’s decision in Manchester on Saturday afternoon was a poor one, and the point Spurs gained from that game could prove crucial in the title race.

Just as Liverpool and Manchester United benefitted from Luis Suarez and Ashley Young’s theatrics in the past.

A clear penalty being turned down because a player stayed on their feet is a relatively uncommon occurrence, and should not distract from an issue that remains far more prevalent.

Which of our writers do you agree with? Let us know why on Facebook or in the comments section below and we will continue the debate.

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