U. SHEFFIELD (UK)—Faking injury and diving in the penalty area are two forms of cheating on the pitch that football fans hate most, a recent survey finds.

The study, which surveyed more than 500 supporters of those nations competing in the upcoming World Cup, also found that Argentina and Italy are considered by fans to be the worst culprits for cheating in the international game.

University of Sheffield researchers developed the survey in an effort to investigate fans’ commitment to soccer, their attitudes towards a number of different types of behavior often considered as gamesmanship, and whether they would disapprove of these actions by players from their team or from the opposition.

It also asked respondents which nation they considered their country’s biggest rivals on the pitch.

Just under 80 percent of respondents disapproved of pretending to have been assaulted by an opposition player. This was closely followed by footballers diving in an attempt to win a penalty (75 percent), hand ball to score a goal (74 percent), and exaggerating an injury received in a tackle (70 percent).

However, perceptions varied by nationality, with Italian and Spanish respondents the least likely to consider diving in the penalty area as cheating.

Unsurprisingly the findings suggested that fans look more favorably on certain behaviors when performed by their own team rather than the opposition, particularly ‘professional fouls’ or handball to stop a goal being conceded.

Results also indicated that behaviors such as time-wasting, and arguing with the referee to influence his decision, were least likely to be considered as cheating.

More than 75 percent of respondents believed certain countries were more likely to cheat than others. Among these fans, Italy was rated as the team most likely to contain cheating players, followed by Argentina.

Local rivalry and past conflict played a part in such views, with many supporters selecting a neighboring country or historic sporting rival as the team most likely to contain cheating players. A notable exception to this pattern were fans in England, with almost 60 percent naming Germany as the team they would most like to beat, but very few (1 percent) considering them as the team most likely to cheat.

Likewise, Australian fans would typically most like to see their team beat England, but none believed England was the team most likely to cheat.

The survey is part of a wider study, which will record instances of cheating throughout the forthcoming World Cup and determine the extent to which the tendency to cheat is a result of personal attitudes, team traits, or a consequence of a specific match situation.

It will also examine whether any variation in cheating by country corresponds with the findings from the fan survey, and which characteristics of players, teams, or match situations most strongly affect the amount of cheating that occurs.

“The way in which fans’ disapproval of cheating varies according to the perpetrator and the offense is fascinating, and we look forward to seeing if supporters’ moral judgment and prejudice are shared by their nation’s players, and borne out during the tournament,” says Chris Stride, from Sheffield’s Institute of Work Psychology.

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