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newsexclusive graham poll column

Exclusive Graham Poll column: Fulham should be charged and sanctioned by FA; Will the FA support their referees? Wolves were NOT hard done by; Conte was WRONG

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In the third instalment of his weekly column for Betting Sites, former Premier League referee Graham Poll has weighed in on the weekend’s controversial decisions. Poll has given his exclusive views on Fulham’s disastrous FA Cup quarter-final against Manchester United and Antonio Conte’s fiery press conference – from a ref’s perspective.

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Column highlights include:

  • Fulham should be charged and sanctioned by FA after Old Trafford meltdown
  • Marco Silva started disgraceful scenes and crossed a line
  • Will the FA support their referees?
  • Wolves were not hard done by, no apology needed from Howard Webb
  • Expect Wolves to accept red cards and disciplinary action from FA
  • Southampton penalty decision was incredibly soft
  • Conte was completely wrong to target players

Fulham should be charged and sanctioned by FA following disgraceful scenes at Old Trafford

Ex-referee Graham Poll thinks Fulham should be charged and sanctioned by the FA after disgraceful scenes in their FA Cup quarter-final loss against Manchester United.

GP: “Fulham FC should be charged and heavily sanctioned by the Football Association after disgraceful scenes at Old Trafford. Fulham were leading 1-0 at the time when everything got out of hand for them in the FA Cup quarter-final. 

“All decisions were correct by Kavanagh which start with the Willian handball and subsequent red card, Marco Silva also deserved his marching orders and then Mitrovic likewise has no case to answer.

“Let’s be clear – the decision taken by referee Chris Kavanagh isn’t a difficult one and is not in doubt. Jaden Sancho rounded Bernd Leno and shot towards the goal. Replays show clearly that Willian then deliberately handles the ball to prevent a goal. 

“Although he protested that it hit his chest, it was clear and obvious that it did in fact touch his arm. Kavanagh had the luxury of checking that fact using VAR and so KNOWS he is correct.”

Fulham manager Marco Silva was the root of the initial trouble and crossed a line

Graham Poll thinks Fulham manager Marco Silva was the cause of Sunday’s meltdown at Old Trafford which saw himself and Aleksandr Mitrovic sent off.

GP: “Fulham manager, Marco Silva, starts the disgraceful scenes by trying to impact on the decision whilst Kavanagh is reviewing the video and has to be sent off.  Marco Silva knows the laws about interfering with an official during a VAR check and thus he crossed the line on this occasion.

“But his action makes it clear to his players that the referee is ‘fair game’.  A red card for Willian and penalty for Manchester United are routine and simple consequences of the handball, this is never in doubt.”

Aleksandr Mitrovic harassed Chris Kavanagh, will the FA support their referees?

Graham Poll has called upon the FA to support their referees after Aleksandr Mitrovic grabbed at referee Chris Kavanagh following VAR’s penalty decision.

GP: “Aleksander Mitrovic completely loses his head and manhandles Kavanagh and continues to harass him after he is (again correctly) shown a red card. You can clearly see on the replays that Mitrovic gets in the face of referee Kavanagh, points his finger in his face and uses his right arm to manhandle the referee and therefore receive a red card.

“Scenes that we shouldn’t see on a football field that brought back memories of Roy Keane and his fellow Man Utd teammates chasing Andy D’urso and Paolo Di Canio pushing Paul Alcock. 

“Now let’s see how the FA support their referees.”

Wolves were not hard done by, no apology needed from Howard Webb

Graham Poll believes Wolves were fairly treated in the 4-2 loss to Leeds United and referee Howard Webb does not owe an apology for his performance at Molineux.

GP: “Wolverhampton Wanderers were not ‘hard done by’ or unfairly treated and there is certainly no apology needed from Howard Webb after an absorbing match at Molineux.

“There were an unusually high number of big, important decisions for referee Michael Salisbury to make, assisted by VAR, and they did pretty well.”

Wolves penalty appeal not 100% clear and VAR cannot get involved

Graham Poll says that incidents such as Junior Firpo’s challenge on Nelsen Semedo inside the box cannot be awarded a penalty.

GP: “There was a clash between Junior Firpo and Nelsen Semedo at which Firpo made a genuine attempt to play the ball. After watching replays it looks like Firpo plays the ball and subsequently might catch Semedo.

“It is not 100% clear and as such the referee cannot award a penalty. With such situations VAR can not get involved, which is correct as we don’t want every situation re-refereed.”

Wolves will accept red cards and disciplinary action from FA 

Graham Poll believes that following the hangover from Saturday’s defeat, Wolves will review the footage and accept the red cards for Matheus Nunes and Jonny Otto with further disciplinary action to come.

GP: “I fully expect Wolves to calm down today, review the video and accept the red cards and subsequent disciplinary action. 

“The first is a shocking tackle by Jonny (Otto) on Leeds’ Luke Ayling. It’s over the top of the ball and studs landing on Ayling’s leg. It certainly endangers the safety of the opponent and is a clear red card. Salisbury really should have seen it ‘live’ but it is just the sort of situation that VAR was brought in for and the intervention ensured the correct decision was taken. 

“There is no way to comment on the red card for Matheus Nunes as it was for comments made from the bench which we cannot hear. However, he certainly looked angry enough to speak inappropriately and why would any match official fabricate misconduct – they wouldn’t.”

VAR correct not to intervene for Rodrigo goal but should have shown a red to Craig Dawson

Graham Poll thinks VAR was correct to not intervene on the final goal of the game from Rodrigo but Craig Dawson should’ve been sent off.

GP: “There was a slight shirt pull on Adama Traore but he still has possession of the ball and at 3-2 down in stoppage time he shouldn’t stop and appeal, but strive to get the ball upfield and play to the whistle. To not award the foul is not a massive error and so VAR does not intervene, correctly again. 

“It could have been worse for Wolves! Wolves were actually fortunate not to see red earlier in the match when Craig Dawson went in on Jack Harrison. Replays showed that a red card could have been justified for Dawson.”

Conte was completely wrong, should have aimed frustration at soft penalty decision 

Graham Poll thinks that Antonio Conte was completely wrong for aiming his frustration at his players instead of the soft penalty decision.

GP: “Antonio Conte is a very successful and passionate manager. He was clearly angry at his team’s performance at Southampton. However, he is also very astute and is aware of the ‘chatter’ surrounding his future in charge of the north London team.

“He is getting his side in first rather than considering the mood of his players. That for me is completely wrong and Conte would have been better to aim his frustration at the incredibly soft penalty which cost Spurs a win.”

The second installment of Graham Poll’s exclusive column with Betting Sites.

Column highlights include:

  • Casemiro has failed to adapt his game, don’t blame refs
  • Roy Keane and Patrick Vieira were given ‘more licence’ than others
  • Mark Chapman would be ideal replacement Gary Lineker as MotD host
  • MotD should feature a referee because pundits are clueless about job
  • Poll admits he has ‘no idea’ about current state of handball laws
  • Nick Pope no penalty/red card decision perfectly illustrates confused VAR thinking

Casemiro is not being targeted, he gives refs no choice 

Ex-referee Graham Poll has debunked theories put forward by Man Utd supporters that Casemiro is being unfairly treated by Premier League officials,

GP: “When I was refereeing I can, with clear conscience, say that I NEVER ‘targeted’ a player. When impartiality is your watchword how could you? Of course there are players who are more physical and therefore more likely to be disciplined by the referee and Casemiro clearly fits into that category.

Casemiro, having attracted so many disciplinary cards recently clearly hasn’t learned to adapt his approach and his manager will, I hope, advise him to do so.”

Refs were more flexible with fiery players in Keane/Vieira era

Graham Poll admitted that he was often less stringent in applying the laws to the more combative players of his time,

GP: “Roy Keane and Patrick Vieira from my time in the Premier League stand out as both incredibly talented but very physical players. I used to caution both of them very regularly but only sent Vieira off twice and both for second yellow card offences. I might even argue that these types of players were often given more licence as I worked harder with them to keep even tempered through the game.”

‘Brilliant’ Mark Chapman has qualities to replace Gary Lineker on Match of the Day

Graham Poll praised Gary Lineker’s professionalism and suggested Mark Chapman could step into his boots should the former England star not return to the MotD role,

GP: “Lineker has developed into a very talented presenter since taking over in 1999 who mixes great insight with some good humour and makes the pundits feel included and at ease to contribute. That is a lot harder than it looks. This dispute needs resolving so that we can all enjoy MOTD once again. If Lineker feels he cannot work to the BBC’s requirements and steps down then I would like to see Mark Chapman take on the role. I worked on a very early podcast for Championship Manager with Chapman who was brilliant at getting the best out of me and my experience which is something MOTD have never done with a referee.”

MotD have missed a trick by never employing ex-ref on programme

Graham Poll thinks getting the views of a former ref such Match of the Day would enhance the viewers’ experience,

GP: “Given the amount of refereeing incidents most weeks I would like to see some time given to someone with a strong refereeing pedigree to offer the final word as none of the current pundits offer that, although they clearly think they are able to give those views without refereeing insight. Football has always been a game of opinions and close calls that could go either way. Pundits love to comment ‘I’ve seen those given’ which is a non-committed comment meaning nothing but proving the pundit doesn’t know whether the match official was right or wrong.”

Handball laws more baffling than ever after shambolic weekend of decisions

Graham Poll is disappointed in Howard Webb, VAR and the lack of clarity surrounding what currently is or isn’t deemed handball in the Premier League,

GP: “What is clear is that managers and players do not agree or indeed understand VAR decisions and it really isn’t clear that the VAR officials do either. Howard Webb is vastly experienced in this field having overseen it in the US for a number of years. In the case of handball, as one of the most experienced PL referees I have no idea what is now seen as handball and what isn’t. 

“There have already been apologies issued for VAR errors, Mike Dean and Lee Mason were the VAR officials involved with Mason leaving the PGMO after his blunder. But those apologies don’t help the teams nor instil confidence in the system. After this weekend it is abundantly clear to me that Webb still has a lot of work to do to get VAR in this country to an acceptable level and that is very disappointing.”

Failure to award Wolves penalty or send off Nick Pope encapsulates VAR confusion

Graham Poll explains how Jimenez’s actions ‘clouded the issue’ and meant VAR could not overturn the initial on field decision,

GP: “The Pope/Jimenez clash is a fascinating one and a great example of how confused VAR thinking is. It is a foul and therefore a penalty and a red card for Pope as he is not making a genuine attempt to play the ball. However, replays in slow motion show Jimenez turning a shoulder and leaning towards Pope which could be seen as ‘clouding the issue’ and meaning the on field decision isn’t a ‘clear and obvious error’ which can then be overturned. 

“Referees giving interviews after the game won’t help these situations as there is little appetite to give the referee the opportunity to talk through good and bad decisions. If they are only asked when a perceived error has been made, the interviews turn into more of a witch hunt; this happened back in the late 90’s when I gave post match feedback and at that point interviews were terminated.”

The first installment of Graham Poll’s exclusive column with Betting Sites.

Column highlights include:

  • Bournemouth’s opening goal should have been disallowed
  • Howard Webb should have words with Kavanagh about not spotting Bournemouth players’ encroachment
  • Bruno Fernandes should face retrospective action over clear simulation
  • Refs should issue red cards to keepers like De Gea & Martinez to stop time wasting, but would face backlash
  • Arteta, Guardiola, Klopp are as bad as each other & should moderate their behaviour towards officials
  • League Managers Association should be embarrassed over dissent towards officials

Arsenal stung by latest VAR blunder after encroachment missed by ref and video officials

Ex referee Graham Poll spoke on the fact that three Bournemouth players were in Arsenal’s half when they kicked off and scored nine seconds later, “VAR once again appeared to let Arsenal FC down again on Saturday as both the on field referee, Chris Kavanagh, and his colleagues at Stockley Park failed to punish the FACT that a number of Bournemouth players were in the opposing half before the kick off at the start of the match. Kavanagh should have seen the encroachment and ordered the kick off to be retaken long before Bournemouth got into the Arsenal penalty area. 

“This happens in a vast number of games but a goal does not follow within 10 seconds and so the offence goes unnoticed and unpunished. Had the player who encroached the most, Antoine Semenyo (Bournemouth number 24), been the player who scored there could well have been an intervention by VAR but with Howard Webb now in charge we will only see less technical offences that are missed being corrected. 

“Had the game finished 0-1 there could have been more criticism but that’s how luck plays a massive part in a referee’s career. But it didn’t and if, like me, you want your football games to flow, you would applaud Webb’s approach; however I do expect him to have a word in Kavanagh’s ear to be more vigilant at set pieces.”

Refs should lay down law by showing keepers like De Gea red cards for time wasting

Graham Poll said on the increasingly problematic issue of time wasting in the Premier League, “There has been a clear directive to try and stop time wasting but this has been caused by it being ignored in the World Cup and loads of time added instead. Referees should warn keepers like Neto, De Gea & Martinez (who have all been recently booked for time-wasting), early on and then caution whatever the time in the game.

“Waiting until 70 minutes plus achieves little. Ultimately a red would get the message across but once again the referee would likely be accused of spoiling the game as a spectacle. You just can’t win.“

Arteta, Klopp and Guardiola all guilty of allowing player dissent to fester, LMA must act

Graham Poll said that managers must accept responsibility for the dissenting actions of their players towards officials, “Player dissent is a huge issue and the conduct of managers just encourages this. Arteta, Guardiola, Klopp are all as bad as each other and the LMA (League Managers Association) should be embarrassed at their inability to act.

“Do they have a role to play? Of course referees should take action as soon as managers come out of the technical areas but let’s get the managers to recognise the importance they have as role models and moderate their behaviour.”

FA should retrospectively charge Bruno Fernandes for simulation during 7-0 hammering

Graham Poll said that players should be charged for simulation incidents that are missed during matches in order to stamp the problem out, “With the current situation VAR can only advise on red cards and simulation is only considered a yellow card offence. I think the FA should charge retrospectively if the case is clear, for example Bruno Fernandes going down holding his face when he wasn’t hit anywhere near the face.”

Graham Poll
Graham Poll
Graham Poll

Graham Poll is a former professional referee who officiated in the Premier League for 14 years. He also officiated in the Champions League as well as the World Cup and covered many high profile matches throughout his career. Domestically, Graham was often given the top clashes between Manchester United and Arsenal when Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger’s sides were going head to head for the title whilst officiating Roy Keane and Patrick Vieira. Graham officiated at the highest level 4 times including one match at World Cup 2002 and 3 matches in World Cup 2006