Owen, now playing for Stoke City, said he was ‘guilty’ of going to ground to win penalties for England in the 1998 and 2002 World Cups.

He made the point that he didn’t dive in the two incidents, as there’s a difference between going down and diving, which Louis Suarez and others have been widely condemned for.

Owen was speaking on a panel at the Leaders in Football Conference at Stamford Bridge, alongside the world’s once top referee, Italian Pierluigi Collina.

 ‘It is in our game, it is happening so fast these days that it is virtually impossible to see whether there was contact,’ Owen said..

‘I’d say that 75 per cent of people could stay on their feet for a penalty, and if they get touched and go down it is almost, ‘Hey got touched so it’s okay 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.’

Owen contends that drawing a foul is a skill.

‘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,’ he says.

‘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’s Stoke teammake Michael Kightly says divers are destroying the game.

‘There is a difference between winning a penalty and just diving,’ Kightly told The Sun. ‘Sometimes players know a tackle is coming in and ride it and go down. That’s good play, winning a penalty.

‘But sometimes, when you just dive with no touch at all, that’s not good for the game.’

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