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The Graham Poll Debate



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Now, before I continue, let me state that I’ve been reading Jonathan Dyer’s articles at Chelsea Blog with great interest, and I think he’s a fair-minded gentleman who is far less biased than your average football fan (other bloggers on CB are not similarly gifted).

However, you have to call a spade a spade, and reading JD’s analysis of Graham Poll made me realise that even smart people make foolish mistakes at times

Here’s the key extract:

The immediate reaction is to look for an agenda. We heard cries from Arsenal, United and Liverpool during their periods of dominance that officials were harsher on football’s ruling aristocracy. Others, including ourselves on occasion, were convinced that it was they who suffered when meeting the bigger sides; having been on both sides of the fence in the last decade, Chelsea fans are probably better placed than most to appreciate both arguments. But I’m not convinced there is an agenda; it’s far more simple than that, far less Machiavellian and underhand.

Graham Poll is just a bloody awful referee. Google his name and words like ‘controversy’, ‘blighted’, ‘incensed’ and ‘completely bollocksed up’ appear, and in connection with more clubs than just Chelsea. All too often, it is his name that makes the news; a man seemingly desperate to bask in football’s reflected glow while assuming greater importance than the players, stealing the headlines from them and feeding his ego into the bargain. The Heather Mills-McCartney of football?

I’m curious – JD has based his conclusion that Graham Poll is a “bloody awful referee” on Google’s results? Now I know that Bush is a miserable failure regardless of Google’s results on his name, but to criticise someone based on the bullshit that’s written by fans who can’t handle decisions given against their clubs is ridiculous. Graham Poll’s biggest claim to fame is his 3 yellow cards in the World Cup, a mistake that overshadows his past record as England’s top ref for several years. If you’re going to use that mistake as the benchmark for judging Poll every time he officiates a match, then no ref is good, period.

Are we going to castigate refs because they are in impossible situations to begin with? A ref let’s the game flow and is called too lenient. Another ref applies the law and is called too tough. People are impossible to please, and it all comes down to perceived ‘unfairness’.

No, I’m not defending Graham Poll. I’m saying that it’s baseless criticism to claim that a ref wants all the attention to himself just because he wants to make sure that the game is being played right and according to the rules of the game (which are flawed).

That’s what it comes down to – the rules are flawed, but instead of barracking the rule-makers we end up throwing mud at the refs, who are just applying the rules. Yes, at times they make mistakes, but like I said here, they’re not given the necessary resources to make better decisions.

Someone said earlier that if people like Wenger kept asking for video replays to be introduced, the Premier League would listen. That’s bollocks.

They just might listen though, if the refs start speaking up.

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Ahmed Bilal created Sportslens in 2006. He is a business consultant and entrepreneur who helps businesses identify and overcome their biggest challenges. He’s also the founder of Football Media, an online advertising agency that specialises in sports and male audience targeting, with a monthly reach of 100m+ sports fans in the UK and US. He’s also the previous owner of Soccerlens.com – a sports news site that reaches 3m+ readers / month.