UEFA's lightning U-turn on their own decision to ban Arsenal's forward Eduardo for diving would raise many an eyebrow and derisive snort, were it not for the fact that that had been the majority reaction to the initial decision in the first place. With, as usual, impeccably ham-fisted timing, UEFA waded into a minor, irrelevant subplot from the one-sided Arsenal versus Celtic Champions League qualifier, and blew it out of all proportion.
Matters weren't helped when Scottish FA chief Gordon Smith needlessly and publicly criticised Eduardo for his 'dive' that won Arsenal a penalty, resulting in one of the five goals they scored against Celtic. Deception or not, Celtic's own players and manager admitted it was immaterial to the tie, but such was the furore drummed up by Smith and the media - probably due to the lack of other talking points from a match that thoroughly highlighted the gulf between the English and Scottish top leagues - that the incident took centre stage.
As dives go - if it was a dive, that is - it was hardly blatant, hardly the sniper bullet-suffering theatrics that are seen across Europe and occasionally creep into England's top flight. Sure, Eduardo is guilty of leaving his body there to allow for contact with the goalkeeper, as Wayne Rooney did against Arsenal a couple of weeks ago too. But how severe the level of gamesmanship is no longer the issue.
Referees have the power to - and do - punish players they deem to have dived, handing an on the spot yellow card. When UEFA got clumsily involved, this should have been the extent of their remit, to give Eduardo a retrospective yellow card. After all, if an off-the-ball sending off offence occurs in a match, which the referee does not see, the Football Association can go back and decide to ban the offending player for three games, the equivalent of a straight red card - as is likely to happen in yet another event involving Arsenal, Emmanuel Adebayor's stud on Robin Van Persie's face from the weekend. But in the case of Eduardo, UEFA took it further and rightly garnered furious criticism from Arsenal, and many points across football.
The reaction was justified, largely because while UEFA and FIFA condemns diving, this was the first occasion a retrospective and severe punishment had been handed out for the offence. Television cameras have been catching players diving every week for years and years, and yet UEFA chose to 'set a precedent' by punishing an inconsequental dive that paled in comparison to the out and out cheating that has gone before it, and that ultimately made no difference to the game it came in.
If their choice in timing was ill-judged, then their involvement at all was bizzare. UEFA would have had no reason to revisit the incident had Gordon Smith not voiced his futile annoyance. So in their effort to affect the game for the greater good, UEFA's precedent essentially became this: 'moan enough about an alleged dive in a football match, and we'll go back and ban each player for two matches if it can be reasonably proven'. Of course they've now overturned it; the very idea is a non-starter. That UEFA could have even begun to uphold the standard they would have set had they allowed Eduardo's ban to stand is clearly impossible.
And that isn't even to say what the precedent would have set for challenging ANY refereeing decision. Take one of the most common problems in football - an offside goal. These errors can be proven within 10 seconds, never mind post-match. So for example, a team loses 2-1 with the winner being an offside goal: given that the losing team can prove they've suffered at the hands of a poor decision, do UEFA now go and cancel out that goal? Change the outcome of the match and award both teams a point? Where do you draw the line, UEFA? Rather than try and answer the question, sensibly the governing body for European football have overturned their ridiculous Eduardo Da Silva decision that got them into the predicament in the first place.