Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Poll Position - 50KaWeekSub

This week saw the professional passing of Graham Poll – a man I’m sure that many people would love to see the back of – good riddance, hasta la vista, you could even send him send him 3 leaving cards. Poll and controversy have seemingly been bedfellows for eternity with headlines following him as frequently as a Drogba dive. Graham Poll will be remembered, demonised and ridiculed but almost certainly not missed – except that is by me:

Monday night a saw a documentary that highlighted this much maligned figure as a likeable, confident, articulate and surprisingly sensitive human being - how many footballers can we put in that bracket?

One comment (in the doc) that summed up Poll’s profile comes from the effeminate co-com voice of Mark Lawrenson in another piece of inspired journalism, “I’m sure that Graham Poll will have the last word,” when describing an on-field altercation. Nothing wrong in this comment you might say – but why shouldn’t refs have the last word. Why should the Rooney’s, Keane’s, Ferguson’s have sole moaning rights both before, during and after the game. Lawrenson isn’t the only pundit who criticises referees but co-commentators and pundits are typically ex-players with axes to grind when it comes to the men in black and referee barracking is a tiresome cliché even for a washed up ex-pro like Lawro .

Since his “passing” Poll has been criticised in many quarters for having the audacity to question Brian Barwick and the FA with many exposing him as an attention seeker. He has also been described as an arrogant and publicity obsessed whore with no thoughts about the consequences of his hideous personality. If that is the case then what adjectives do we use to describe Jose Mourinho, Joey Barton or career breaker turned new media darling Roy Keane?

Let’s think about Graham Poll - he didn’t start an illegal war on false pretences followed by a farewell tour, didn’t commit perjury - he didn’t even lie. My message to Graham Poll is this: Yes you made some mistakes, yes you liked the limelight but yes you were the best in the profession and for that I would like to thank you Mr Poll and apologise on behalf of the fans, yobs, media, players and managers who abused and continue to abuse you. I wish you a lucrative and long overdue break from the game that you love – you deserve it – unlike many in the corrupt and poisoned chalice profession that is football. You may even have a biography worthy of the name.


chelseaexile said...

50, great post. Though I can't agree with the thrust if the argument. Poll created a negative image for all refs and it could be argued, did much to cause the problems that refs appear to have at all levels.

When Lorro made the crack about 'having the last word' I don't think he meant on the pitch. Its fair to say that Poll liked to have the last word on SKY, MoTD and in any paper that would print it.

guitougoal said...

Nice thought-I really like it.Well,goodby Mister Poll,
turn off the lights, I'm sorry it had to come to this, but don't forget to leave the whistle under the mat.

Margin said...

Sad thing is that instead of going because of the three yellow cards - the straw that broke the cammel's back was actually a perfectly good bit of refereeing.

Poll could have sent off John Terry three times with six yellow cards in that game at WHL. He had ranted at the ref - he had committed several fouls - and he had been clearly told off by Poll who presumably hoped that would keep him from drawing a second yellow.

In the end Terry's deliberate and constant rule breaking and disrespect got the red card it deserved.

But sadly for Poll - Chelsea lost that game and so he was accused of all sorts of corruption by Jose and his players - and Terry was England captain so the FA kept schtum.

we can all be relieved Poll will never again be printed in our match programmes next to the assertion "referee".

but it is a shame that he is going because it is not acceptable to make some right decisions.

The last man to send off an england capatin in the league was Rennie - and he was quickly relegated to non-premiership refereeing for rightly sending off Shearer.

file said...


gotta agree with ce here, great piece and well argued but

he was a good ref, no more, but I prefer to watch football and as such he used to get in the way of things

and, bloody hell, gotta agree with Margin, must be astrological, that he went for probably the wrong reasons but then if you ponce around like he did it is always likely to happen

there is, however, a dark undercurrent to all the ref barraking, last year Fisk, next year Columbine or Columbia...

chelseaexile said...

Oh come now Margin... I thought we were above the inter-club stuff over here. For that reason I won't say anything about Terry.

However, the only conspiracy involving Rennie was how the hell he ever became a Prem ref in the first place...As much as disliked the elbowing cheat, he had nothing to do with Rennie's relegation.

Margin said...


Sorry - didn't mean that to read as an anti-chelsea rant - and I don't for a second claim that the likes of SAF and Wenger are any better than Mourinho for this sort of thing.

had Poll rightly sent off Rooney in a crucial defeat for ManU - I'm sure that would have drawn a very similar reaction from the Red Devils.

50KaWeekSub said...

Agree to a certain extent that Poll didn’t exactly always help himself – I guess my point is that pundits, players, fans, the media and managers are making the problem of respect to refs worse.

Poll’s point that Sunday League refs are getting physically attacked is a worrying one and when you look at kids at school level diving to the ground with yelps of fake pain – well what’s it all coming to?

I feel that stronger sanctions should be taken against this lack of respect in football - whether it’s diving or swearing at refs and I agree with Poll – this support must come from the FA.

file said...


yeh, you\'re dead right about this, I\'ve been banging on about it for years

what people don\'t seem to appreciate is that refs are the embodiment of authority and by watching them get decisions wrong and making arses of themselves as well as being ridiculed and lambasted by respectable folk in the media, we are undermining social order generally

conditioning is a huge and subtle thing and refs in such a high-profile sport should be given all the help they can get, video/4 linesmen etc.

I\'m not an establishment fan at all but neither do I support mindless anti-authoritarianism which is seen as acceptable when the likes of Keane, Wourinho etc just face off the refs

Ebren said...

There are two points I would make. The first is that refs get things wrong. And a mistake can cost clubs dearly. Rule out a goal in the play-off final and you can cost a club £60 million. Technically, you could sue for that.

Referees, therefore, must not be exempt from criticism - just like the police can be criticised.

That said, without referees football wouldn't work. You need them.


Hold refs accountable for their decisions - but respect them on the pitch.

If there was a formal process for questioning/reviewing a referees performance and all his decisions (not just yellow cards/things they have missed) then Jose, Fergie, etc could use it if they disagreed with something.

They would feel more empowered and less likely to rant.

But I would couple that with a zero-tolerance on the field.

Give refs mikes - so that the commentators at least can hear what is being said by them and to them (so we can understand) and send off/card anyone abusing them. Not questioning a decision politely or asking for an explanation, but screaming at them.

How many red cards/suspensions would it take before managers stopped their players from doing it? And if it is all recorded for review a ref can both back up a decision, explain themselves, or be proved wrong.

Poll is asking for unconditional/automatic backing of refs.

That is unrealistic and wrong. Refs make mistakes, so do players. Hold them both accountable, but respect the process.

file said...

good points Ebren,

especially zero tolerance, it doesn\'t take long to make a stand if folk are united and the penalties are high

accountability is only so important because I do agree with FIFA (my dog!) that retrospective reffing kills the game

there will always be a human element and that is right, as long as refs are impartial then a level of mistakes is ok

but being seen by millions of viewers worldwide to be unquestionably wrong most (?) of the time has dangerous knock on effects

Margin said...


agree with you up to your last line.

Poll actually said he was happy to have people criticise mistakes. what he said was that there should be absolutely no questioning of a referee's integrity.

Remember that in his example - Chelsea didn't just argue he was wrong to send Terry off (perfectly legitimate thing to believe no matter how wrong they were)

The key matter was that they lied about the things he said on the pitch and claimed he was deliberately attacking chelsea.

And amazingly we actually know people like Ashley Cole lied because refs already have mikes and officials in the stands monitor their comments over the game.

As such had poll said he was going to teach chelsea a lesson it was recorded and he'd have been punished. Likewise if he had given contradictory explanations of the sending off - he would have been reprimanded.

And thats where refs should have impunity - lying about them should be utterly condemned - and casting baseless doubt on their integrity should be punished with a season long ban. (unless you are old Big 'ead and have just lost the uefa cup semi final to anderlect in 1984)

50KaWeekSub said...

Ebren, I agree with your many of your sentiments, however, your point about unconditional backing was ironic because that is exactly what Terry and Rooney etc get from their clubs and from pundits. In any other industry employers would stick up for their staff so why not the FA for refs? Why wasn’t Poll backed for being accused of being a liar – pretty libellous stuff - especially when Terry was proven guilty albeit with a slap on the wrists and a pathetic fine.

One danger is that it is far easier for a ref to be proved wrong than say a diving footballer – especially when we get all this tosh about them being brushed. Refs have to see things from all angles and at 200 MPH...

Excellent idea re mikes and I guess we all agree that the FA need to put stronger..

PS can someone advise me how to post comments as I seem to be caught under the "old blogger" system needing to r-register every feckin time...doh.

chelseaexile said...

Sorry Margin, but I can't let; "The key matter was that they lied about the things he said on the pitch and claimed he was deliberately attacking chelsea." go without some kind of rebuttal.

How do you know what was said on the pitch? Only those involved know. The fact that the FA found Terry guilty is not proof of what was said. Just that they felt obliged to back their man. I'm starting to doubt your objectivity a bit... There was no definite proof of what was picked up on the ref's mike. Just the assertions of his assistants that he hadn't said any such thing.

Of all the refs in the Prem, Poll left himslef open to this kind of accusation. He was loud and persistent in his criticism of Mourinho over the Frisk affair, and for all anyone knew, DID think Chelsea needed a lesson.

Your earlier point about six Yellows for JT is somewhat undermined by Poll's recent statement that he thought Terry's Red was 'harsh, on reflection'.

Every team has a G Poll gripe. It reflects poorly on the man that he threw his toys out of the pram over Terry.

Zeph said...

50K, if you click on 'other' then you can put your name without all the signing in stuff. You will be shown in black rather than blue:) The only disadvantage is that you can't delete your posts, which you can if you're signed in.

guitougoal said...

"he did think chelsea needed a lesson"-
Don't you think he was right anyway? It's hard to keep a situation under control if 10 players argue constantly -on your face- each time you are making a call. Chelsea and Mourinho lead the pack of contesters. But all other teams are also invoved too many times in protesting and arguing-
This attitude is beyond the limits of acceptability ,in my view sit hould be forbidden on the pitch-
claims should be allowed after the game anyway because the postgame review of the video can save managers from embarassing themselves with unreasonable claims-

50K said...

Cheers Zeph...

Chelsea we've had a spar or two on the GU blogs before so you won't be surprised that I agree with Margin on this one: I'd expect you to dislike Poll being a Chelsea fan, however, having a go at Jose for the Frisk affair is a positive in my book - if only the FA would follow.

If Mourinho or Paul Jewell or whoever were brought to task more then the game could be cleaned up thus protecting refs and allowing them to concentrate on what they are paid for - officiating - not dealing with outrageous accusations.

bluedaddy said...

Nicely pitched piece 50k.

Like CE I feel a little of the old anti-Chelsea bias slipping out, but then you aren't too happy with our merry band of men, so why hide it. I even agree with some of your points re our recent indiscipline.

Re Poll. I'm not a fan. I agree with the old cliche - the good ref is the one you don't notice. He loves being a high profile figure; it oozes out of him. He might be a perfectly nice guy, but I think he let the limelight influence his decisions on the field.

Re the WHL game - Terry showed a lack of discipline. Whether Poll made the right decisions is neither here nor there. Terry let the team down by losing his cool. That said when you play and the ref is butting in to a game it is fucking annoying.

My main point: Are things getting worse? The Premiership is the big shop window of English football. Fashions adopted here will spread across the whole game - so in the Sunday leagues and school pitches you will see colourful boots, silly stepovers, copycat haircuts, and lairy chavs calling the ref a fucking wanker for making a perfectly straightforward decision.
Managers need to take the lead. I am often appalled by the pressure that Wengierinho tries to apply to refs before and after games. And the lesser lights seem to follow suit. If Pearce, Coppell, Jol can do it, then so can the rest. Will this happen? About as likely as Steve McLaren having some sort of clue about top level football management.

BTW I dont accept the way of thinking that more money in football has upped the stakes. I dont feel any more or less happy/pissed off now when Chelsea do well/do badly than I did when footballers had bubble perms and retired to run pubs. Refs need to be allowed to make mistakes. They are human. Football is human. By all means bring in a bit of goal line technology, but go too far and you get Gridiron or Playstation football. Yuck.

bluedaddy said...

Sorry, rambling incoherent post. My point re managers was that if Pearce Coppell and Jol can behave thenselves and set an example then so can all the rest.

50K said...

Bluedaddy, in the same way that punters (myself obviously included) are anti-Jose, Mr P too seems to Pollarise (couldn't resist it) opinion - in fact are they really so different after all?

For the record I find myself almost hating and admiring JM at the same time - on the one hand he is interesting, funny, articulate, shrewd successful and handsome: On the other side of the coin he can be a deluded, bullying - well you get the gist.

Similarly I have a love hate relationship with football and agree that bad habits transcend. In the same way that Big Brother syndrome seems to be fucking up any remaining normality in youngsters today, the likes of Rooney spitting obscenities at middle aged men creates a knock on effect.

Re money - I believe that it has only served the purpose of putting the players into even more of a bubble - making them ever more immune to any sense of normality. If you are earmning £100,000 after tax a week and you've got some jumped up ex-deputy headmaster who won't earn that in 4 years trying to ref your game then you're going to call him a "fucking cheat."

MotM said...

Excellent post.

I'm with Bluedaddy most of the way. I just waited for Poll to do two things in a match: get a big decision wrong; and find a way of getting the focus on him.

On the wider issues, all sport is about consent (in the rules) and cooperation (in their application and interpretation). Referees can't reinstate those qualities if they are missing. The younger the players are, the more clear those qualities need to be stated.

Would you put up with the treatment refs get at the hands of Rooney, Mourinho et al in your place of work? I wouldn't.

gg said...

Poll should be given a job on GU; then he could be wrong ALL the time, and still get paid.

Margin said...


I appreciate that your instinct is to defend chelsea - and I should stress again none of this was meant to be an attack on chelsea on my part - I'm often one for bemoaning the very negative focus on chelsea and jose that should at least be equally given to other teams and managers.

And whether Poll thought chelsea needed to be taught a lesson or not dosn't really come in to it. I'd argue that if not every Premierleague team, then at least some players on every team needs that lesson.

What Poll said he quit over was the accusations and lies that he was not protected from.

And while I'd like a more open system where the transcripts of what refs say is published - I don't presume to believe that the officials monitoring refs lie to cover up refereeing deceit.

As such had he given conflicting accounts of Terry's sending off then he it was recorded. And if he'd said (not 'thought' - Ashley cole isn't a mind reader) it would have been highlighted.

Yet clearly it seems that was not the case. Otherwise Terry's ban would have been overturned and cole wouldn't have got hiss slap on the wrist.

and again I stress - chelsea are not alone in this sort of thing.

arsene wenger was slapped on the wrist three times this year - SAF regularly accuses referees of all sorts of bias. And many less high profile managers hint at corruption by claiming refs favour big clubs - or that they visited the other team's changing room at half time - or whatever.

all of which needs to be stopped.

chelseaexile said...

margin, for the record I agree that the behaviour towards refs has got out of hand and that Chelsea, amongst others are developing a sorry reputation for it.

Its a shame that its the Terry incident that Poll used as a reason for his departure. For me, it just proves all that was defective about the man as a ref. Always keep centre stage. Always pursue controversy. Never admit you got it wrong.

The FA's reaction to the whole affair speaks of an organisation that had grown tired of Poll and was not sure that if it came down to it, that they could back him.

I can't mourn him, or say with any conviction that Terry did anything worse than a dozen other players in that match. But I do agree that it would be better all round if this sort of thing didn't happen and I hope Poll's style of reffing will go with him.

file said...

50k, CE, Marge,

just to add a bit of flour to the mix; the FA has been a floundering and confused body for years, the EPL and Sky only excacerbated that

I\'d suggest caution when using the FA\'s actions, relations or opinions in your analyses of Poll or any other footie issue (same for UEFA/FIFA/IOC etc.)

Imo a great part of the reason you are having this debate is because of the ignorance and inneptitude of the governing bodies in the first place

whats truly great is that y\'all are taking great care to keep your territorial fires burning while not scalding each other - this way great debate and development lie

Margin said...


I completely agree that no fan should mourn Poll and I quite agree that plenty of players could have joined Terry in his early shower on that game.

But I tend to take the view that just because other players break the rules time and time again does not excuse Terry doing it. Players who consistently break the same rules throughout a match, and who constantly rant at the referee – deserve their cards.

If referees themselves took a zero tolerance position on players crowding them and questioning them on the pitch and so on – then that would have to change things for the better.

Although if just one referee does it (like Poll that day) then it only leads to hardship.

Margin said...


Couldn’t agree more with your description of the FA that fits all of the various football authorities. And frankly if they had the ability within their halls to be decisive and to act in the best interests of the sport then…

a) Referees would be recruited on merit from diverse sources.
b) Referees would be aided to make good decisions by electronic assistance.
c) Players and managers would have been bought under control a long time ago.
d) The system would be more open to fair and open to proper scrutiny
e) Poll would have been sacked long before Chelsea played Tottenham on that fateful afternoon.

50K said...

I still don’t feel that Poll is the Dr Evil that many claim he is. He’s an arrogant man but then who isn’t in football (?) and I would argue that he's a product of the times and the players probably need people like that.

Agree with the comments that a good ref is one that isn't noticed but that depends largely on the players...

My FA proposals would be:

1) Crackdown retrospectively (video evidence) on players who cheat with a 5 game ban.
2) Crackdown on players who harass refs with similar ban.
3)Retrospective correction of idiotic refereeing decisions, i.e. redeeming yellow and red cards.
4) Five game touchline ban for any managers that accuse/harass or intimidate refs.
5) Ban all fines in football as it’s awash with so much money that it's like taking sand from the Arabs.
6) Sack Mclaren with immediate effect.

file said...

absolutement correct! tho I\'d have to say that it may have been possible to head Mr.Pill off at the pass

if there was an emphasis on the ninja skills of great referees and folk were bred and trained to do it well (with whatever aids support the goal of better football and parity)...

then the obvious potential of a young Pill might have grown into an above average Sunday league ref, instead...

file said...

just to clarify; the abs corr comment was a response to Herr Margin


abs corr, except;

can\'t support more retroactive measures (except maybe naming and shaming)

football has to keep it\'s spontanaity (sp?) as much as possible, most of you are humans and make mistakes which create wonderful drama and are inescapable even with retroactive video/genetic evidence

also it\'s second guessing the ref, again a negative message to his/her authority making for conflict, do you really trust the sweet FA to make the right decisions even with molecular proof?

don\'t put footie in the hands of the politico\'s and floffal

to me it should be left to the match as much as possible and when it\'s over it\'s over, but support the officials with every available means but still prioritsing spontanaeity (sp?)

file said...

and just a point; what are the right decisions anyway?

the answers usually end up being political, how do you weigh action versus response for example? or ball to hand?

Sometimes the immediate interpretations are flawed but it\'s a lot better than haggling over it isn\'t it?

isn\'t that the sport of politics?

50K said...

I definitely don’t want it to get to the point where you are getting lawyers involved over whether say Ronaldo dived or was “brushed” but if the FA used a bit more common sense (laughable I know) then this problem could be eradicated or at least lessened. The spontaneity of the game should and always will continue - hence I am against instant video replays.

bluedaddy said...

It is desirable to shame and punish cheats and thugs, but there would have to be a sort of Punishment Panel, agreed to be binding by all parties.

I'm thinking Duncan Ferguson, Francis Lee and Neil Warnock or, better still, Wenger - to catch a thief an' all that. Live on telly on a Sunday night, lots of slo-mos, and the stocks for the worst offenders outside the grounds of their biggest rivals, with a big tray of cold burgers and pies and skanky fried onions for ammo.


Stuart Hall of course, with Graham Poll in the 'Uncle' Arthur Ellis ex-ref role. So who would be Eddie Waring?

duncan said...

Good to see someone take the opposite view, though personally I can't stand the likes of Poll and Frink. Wannabee glamour-boys.

Generally, it's a pity that refs are still not getting the help they need. For example, why can't we have another set of assistants for helping with calls that involve corners, another angle on fouls in that section of the field, and 'did the ball cross the line' incidents?
Tough job for sure though. Enjoy your retirement Mr Poll, you've earned it.

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