Dives, biomechnanics and cash flow

"Football Federation Australia (FFA) today confirmed that the suspensions imposed on two Hyundai A-League players for simulation last weekend will stand," begins a terse press release doing the rounds of the Australian football media earlier this week.

It was the first shot fired in a Mexican stand-off between FFA and two A-League clubs following an extraordinary series of events last weekend.

Argentine midfielder Patrcio Perez made his mark at the Central Coast Mariners for all the wrong reasons in Round 4 action, going down under a rash challenge from Sydney FC goalkeeper Liam Reddy in what would later become a scene of infamy.

Referee Matthew Breeze did not hesitate to point to the spot in his 100th match in the middle, and Perez himself swept the resultant spot-kick past Sydney substitute Ivan Necesvki after Reddy had been given his marching orders for bringing the Argentine down.

The match ultimately finished in a 1-1 draw, and the whole incident might have been forgotten were it not for an even more extraordinary scene at a sparsely populated AAMI Park the following afternoon.

Visitors Perth Glory were 2-1 down deep into stoppage time against hosts Melbourne Heart, when Glory striker Michael Baird flung himself to the ground as young Heart substitute Kliment Taseski loitered nearby.

Having come off the bench himself, the tenacious Baird provided the Glory with thirty minutes of hustle and bustle up front, but his theatrical flop to the ground looked for all money like a last second dive of absolute desperation.

However, it fooled rookie referee Kurt Ams into pointing to the spot and Robbie Fowler showed no mercy as he slotted home the penalty to snatch a share of the spoils in a controversy-riddled 2-2 draw.

Baird has only just returned to the A-League following a four-year stint in Romanian football, and his injury-time antics kicked off a furious debate as to whether the so-called "dark arts" were beginning to creep into the Australian scene.

Controversy reigned throughout the ensuing debate, and both the Mariners and Glory took obvious offence to their players being labelled "cheats," with Central Coast officials going so far as to consult a team of biomechnanics experts from the University of Newcastle to support their claim that Perez had been tripped.

They even threatened to bring legal action against FFA, but backed down on Thursday afternoon - despite registering their annoyance at the lack of an appeals process for players accused of simulation.

Perth Glory also bristled at suggestions that Baird had deliberately conned the referee, and the public slagging match between the two clubs and the game's governing body will place an immense strain on referees as soon as a player next takes a contentious tumble inside the penalty box.

Meanwhile, 2007/08 champions Newcastle Jets are gripped in turmoil of their own, after controversial owner Con Constantine admitted that his cash flow problems meant that his players had gone unpaid for the past fortnight.

So dire are Newcastle's financial problems, concerns were raised their Round 5 clash with Brisbane Roar may not go ahead, but the beleaguered FFA have stepped in to underwrite the costs after matchday contractors threatened to withdraw their services should they not be paid in advance.

Constantine has asked FFA for a short-term loan in order to pay his players and staff, but it's anyone's guess how much longer the Jets can subsist playing in front of small crowds out of a stadium undergoing a seemingly endless round of renovations.

Central Coast Mariners and Perth Glory may have thought they had problems, but events over the past 24 hours suggest they're minor compared to what the Jets are going through, as the topsy-turvy A-League takes yet another crazy turn of events.

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