Mad About Bad Referees? Blame Fifa, not Graham Poll

After that Australia-Croatia match, British referee Graham Poll came under scathing criticism for showing Josip Simunic 3 yellow cards before showing him a red one (with the third one coming after the final whistle had blown). The problem though is not with Poll, but with Fifa itself.

Sky Sports has talked about how Poll has given more red cards than any other referee, or how he has called more fouls per game than other referees. Independent blogs (people watching the game at home on tv and seemingly oblivious of past performances) have called for Graham Poll being removed from the World Cup Finals.

All this can be attributed to hype (reference the recent Arsenal-Beveren case, which seems to be much-ado about nothing) and frustration at the substandard refereeing that has been as much of a feature in this World Cup as attacking football and the fantastic goals. People forget that Croatia and Australia are both very physical teams and the match itself was a hotly contested affair, and Fifa’s new guidelines for referees have themselves caused for a lot of cards to be shown this summer. More pertinently, Poll has shown an average of 4 yellow cards per game, less than most other referees at the World Cup. He’s not as card happy as he is been portrayed.

Punishing Graham Poll (by preventing him from officiating further matches, including his shot at the 9th July final) isn’t the answer. Even worse, it focuses a lot of attention and effort on the shoulders of a otherwise excellent referee. After Pierluigi Colina (who retired recently), Poll is one of the best and most respected referees of the game. On the other hand, Fifa has proven to be highly ineffectual at creating a high, across-the-board standard of officiating in all matches. Despite their efforts to promote fair play, you cannot expect referees who ply their trade in the lesser leagues across the world to match the standards expected in international football.

Remember the Champions League final? UEFA were blasted for not picked a recognized, experienced referee. Fifa have not learned the lesson, and as the more important matches start today, such mistakes will be only more obvious and have worse consequences than a bunch of bloggers talking smack.

Fifa need to tighten up their act, but burning Poll on the stake is not the answer.

Fifa meet on Wednesday, June 28 to decide which referees will stay for the final 8 matches of the tournament (quarters, semis, third-place playoff and final) and which will be asked to go home (BBC Sports).

[tags]Fifa, World Cup 2006, Graham Poll, referees[/tags]

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