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Graham Poll (born July 29, 1963 in Tringmarker, Hertfordshiremarker) is an Englishmarker former football referee in the FA Premier League. With 26 years of experience, he was regarded as one of the most prominent referees in the Premiership, often taking charge of the highest profile games. His final domestic game in a career spanning 1544 matches was the Championship play-off final on May 28, 2007 between Derby County and West Bromwich Albion.

As well as refereeing the 2005 UEFA Cup Final he was the English representative at 2 World Cups and UEFA Euro 2000.

At the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germanymarker, he refereed two matches successfully and, had he continued to receive high marks from assessors, would have been a candidate to take charge of the Final. However, in his third game, Croatia vs Australia , he cautioned the same player three times before sending the player off. Poll retired from refereeing international tournament finals matches citing his error in the match. He continued to referee in the Premiership, Champions League and on International Games, but said he would not allow himself to be nominated to represent the FA at any Tournament Finals as he felt he had had his chance.

Football career

Poll took up the whistle in 1980, progressing from the Isthmian League to become a Football League assistant referee in 1986. Five years later he became a full Football League referee, before being selected for the list of Premier League referees in 1993.

Having held a FIFAmarker badge since 1996, he took charge of quite a few European matches, of which possibly his most important was the UEFA Cup final between CSKA Moscow and Sporting Lisbon in 2005. Poll also took charge of many international matches, refereeing at top FIFA and UEFA tournaments such as Euro 2000, where Poll took charge of France versus Czech Republic, and Norway versus Slovenia in the group stages. He refereed his last ever Premiership match on May 13, 2007, between Portsmouth and Arsenal in which he denied Portsmouth European qualification by (correctly) ruling out a Niko Kranjcar goal.

His last ever match, and his last in Europe, was to have been the Euro 2008 qualifying match between Finland and Belgium on June 6, 2007. However, some time prior to that match, he took part in an interview which appeared critical of the support referees receive from the FA in the face of criticism by team managers and coaches. The match was overseen on the day by fellow English referee Mike Riley instead. In August 2007, Poll released his autobiography entitled "Seeing Red", and now concentrates on media work, as a pundit for BBC Sport's football coverage, and as a columnist with The Daily Mail, his feature entitled "The Official Line" appearing every Saturday.

Everton v Liverpool, 2000 FA Premier League

In the dying seconds of the Merseyside derby between Everton and Liverpool on April 21, 2000 with the score at 0-0, the Liverpool goalkeeper Sander Westerveld kicked the ball at Everton's Don Hutchison's back while Hutchison was retreating towards his own half. The ball bounced into Liverpool's net, but Poll disallowed the goal, claiming that he had already blown the whistle to end the game. The television slow-motion pictures proved that this was incorrect, and after retiring in May 2007, Poll confessed that disallowing the goal had been a mistake that he regretted.

France v Czech Republic 2000

Poll first attracted controversy on the international stage for a decision in the above game played on June 16, 2000, in Brugesmarker at Euro 2000. During the first half Poll awarded a penalty kick to the Czech Republicmarker. However, before awarding the kick Poll ventured over to the assistant referee to confirm where the foul had occurred. Poll awarded the penalty.

World Cup 2002

Poll attracted controversy for his role in the Italy versus Croatia game at the 2002 FIFA World Cup, played on Saturday June 8, 2002. His two assistants that day were England's Phil Sharp and Denmark's Jens Larsen. In the opening minutes, Poll had waved away a protest that a Croatian player had been injured, instructing the player to stand. When play was eventually stopped the player left the field with a bloodied nose.

Just after half time Christian Vieri had a headed goal disallowed for offside; TV replays showed the Italian player to be on-side when the pass was made. Vieri netted the ball again minutes later to give his side the lead. Italy then had a second goal disallowed for shirt pulling, after a long free kick had found its way in. Both goals had been flagged for infringements by assistant referee Larsen. Croatia then found an equaliser through Ivica Olić, and a winner just fifteen minutes before the end via a deflected shot from Milan Rapaić. Poll had a busy game, as there were forty-two fouls, three goals scored, two goals disallowed, and two bookings.

After the game, Vieri said "Those weren't division one or even division two officials, they were village officials." Francesco Totti also complained about the lack of protection Poll had offered him: "I took a lot of kicks. He was an English referee in every way."

As a result of the game FIFAmarker were asked about the standard of refereeing at that World Cup. Their spokesman, Keith Cooper, said: "Generally the overall standard (of refereeing) is more than satisfactory. It is acknowledged that mistakes may be made. I'm not necessarily saying this was the case last night. I do want to emphasize that. It is in the nature of the beast that mistakes can happen. Referees are humans just like players and we shouldn't look at isolated matches, but the standard as a whole."

World Cup 2002 statistics

  • Games officiated: 1
  • Goals seen: 3
  • Bookings: 2
  • Reds: 0
  • Penalties awarded: 0

Event Games
World Cup 2002 1 3 0 0

Arsenal v Sheffield United, 2003 FA Cup Semi-Final

Poll was consistently given the most important matches to referee and most passed without contentious incidents. When there was controversy, however, the nature of his role meant that he was criticised fiercely. One such controversy was when Arsenal met Sheffield United in an FA Cup Semi Final at Old Traffordmarker, Manchestermarker in the 2002-2003 competition. Arsenal won the game 1-0 but in the lead up to their goal by Freddie Ljungberg, some commentators thought that Sol Campbell had fouled United forward Wayne Allison. The ball broke free, and as United midfielder Michael Tonge tried to get the free ball he collided with Poll. This prevented him from tracking back to cover the scorer, to the dismay of Neil Warnock, the then Sheffield United manager. Additionally, he allowed play to go on as Wayne Allison lay prone on the ground after what some perceived to be a foul. He further drew controversy by smiling as he left the pitch at half time, although in his autobiography he explained that it was a defence mechanism to cope with the abuse Warnock and others were shouting.

World Cup 2006

Poll was the only British referee at the 2006 World Cup in Germany.


This was the first game of Poll's second FIFA World Cup, with first time Finalists Togo taking on 2002 semi-finalists South Korea. Poll sent off Jean-Paul Abalo of Togo for a second bookable offence, although he accidentally showed the red card first and the yellow second. Lee Chun-Soo netted an equaliser for Korea from the resultant free kick.


Poll's second game of the 2006 FIFA World Cup saw Saudi Arabia meet Ukraine. The Ukrainians finished 4-0 winners. Poll received slight criticism from commentators for not booking players for unsportsmanlike 'diving' when turning down a penalty appeal (as referees have been instructed to do by FIFAmarker). In all, he showed six yellows, three to each side. There was an unfortunate moment in the first half for Poll, after he accidentally deflected the ball into the path of the Ukrainian, Maksym Kalynychenko. The midfielder crossed the ball in front of the goal, and Andriy Shevchenko only narrowly avoided making contact.


His next game was the Group F match between Croatia and Australia on June 22. Tom Dart, in his Times article on the match, commented that "The choice of Graham Poll as referee was surprising since he is familiar to the Australians who play in the Barclays Premiership." Inside the first ten minutes of the game, Poll did not see a rough tackle in the box by Josip Šimunić as a foul, He followed to disallow a second penalty claim by Australia when Tomis handballed inside the box.

After already sending off two players, Poll failed to send off Šimunić for a second yellow card late in the match, eventually sending him off for a third yellow for dissent at the final whistle. Poll also stated that he had erred in his initial booking of Šimunić, marking his card with the correct number (3) but in the wrong column; effectively noting it against Australia's Craig Moore. This meant he had no record of the previous booking when showing Šimunić his second card.

The game ended 2-2, putting Australia through to the next round. Sepp Blatter later commented that "had Australia lost the game and gone out of the World Cup, they would have had grounds to request a replay." Poll's assistant also missed that the second Australian goal by Harry Kewell was scored from an offside position. Within half an hour of the game ending, UK bookmaker Coral offered odds of 10-1 against Poll refereeing another match at the tournament.


On June 28, Poll was named as one of 14 officials dismissed by FIFA from the remaining World Cup 2006 matches following his error in the Croatia v. Australia match. Maria Villar Llona, president of the FIFA referee's committee, said of Poll, "He is an exceptional referee and a great sportsman, who will be able to overcome the situation thanks to his strong personality and love of the game."

Poll retired from international tournament finals football on June 29, 2006, citing the error as the reason. He said in his retirement announcement,
"What I did was an error in law. There can be no dispute. It was not caused by a FIFA directive, it was not caused by me being asked to referee differently to the way I referee in the Premier League. The laws of the game are very specific. The referee takes responsibility for his actions on the field of play. I was the referee that evening. It was my error and the buck stops with me."
In the press release, he also claimed that he had asked FIFA to be allowed to go home, to be with his family after the trauma of his mistake in the match.

He continued to referee in the Champions League and on International Games, but said he would not allow himself to be nominated to represent The FA at any tournament finals. "It's time for somebody else in England to have a go and I will do everything I can to prepare them. But for me tournament football is over," Poll said.

World Cup 2006 statistics

  • Games officiated: 3
  • Goals seen: 11
  • Bookings: 16
  • Reds: 4
  • Penalties awarded: 1

Event Games
World Cup 2006 3 16 4 0

  • The above table is representative of the Laws of the Game, so does not include the extra yellow card
    mistakenly shown to Josip Šimunić of Croatia during his well-documented dismissal: see Croatia v.


Career highlights

International career details

1998 FIFA World Cup qualification

UEFA Euro 2000

2002 FIFA World Cup qualification

2002 FIFA World Cup

2006 FIFA World Cup qualification

FIFA Club World Championship 2005

2006 FIFA World Cup

Card statistics

Season Games Total per game Total per game
1995/1996 21 62 2.95 3 0.14
1997/1998 28 113 4.03 12 0.42
1998/1999 32 119 3.71 9 0.28
1999/2000 40 136 3.40 6 0.15
2000/2001 43 119 2.76 11 0.25
2001/2002 45 120 2.66 6 0.13
2002/2003 40 119 2.98 5 0.12
2003/2004 42 114 2.71 4 0.09
2004/2005 45 124 2.75 5 0.11
2005/2006 49 166 3.38 10 0.20
2006/2007 48 165 3.43 8 0.16


Poll has made several appearances on popular football radio show: World Soccer Daily, where he is typically asked to provide a view from the point of the referee whenever major controversial issues occur. He also features weekly on Chappers Premier League Podcast alongside Mark Chapman and Kevin Day.As well as this features in the Daily Mail where he speaks on officiating at the highest level, talking about decisions referee's have to make. He also appears regularly as a pundit on Setanta Sports 'Football Matters' show on Monday nights hosted by James Richardson and Rebecca Lowe.

Personal life

Poll is married to Julia. The couple have two daughters, and one son. He also continues with charity work, and ran in the London Marathon on April 13, 2008, finishing in a time of four hours and 20 minutes. The proceeds went to the Iain Rennie Hospice at Home.


  1. Graham Poll's retirement: Guardian Unlimited, May 28, 2007. Retrieved on May 28, 2007.
  2. Profile: the Football League official website. Retrieved on February 4, 2008. he has now retired
  3. Poll no-show for his last ever game as a referee, Finland v. Belgium, June 6, 2007): (June 6, 2007). Retrieved on June 7, 2007.
  4. Interview given in May 2007 regarding FA support for referees: (May 30, 2007). Retrieved on May 31, 2007.
  5. "The Official Line", Daily Mail column written by Poll: the Mail's own website. Retrieved on February 4, 2008.
  6. Everton v. Liverpool, 2000: website. Retrieved on February 17, 2008.
  7. "Time to forgive Poll for howler": Liverpool Echo, June 9, 2007. Retrieved on February 17, 2008.
  8. Italy v. Croatia, Vieri's disallowed goal: website. Retrieved on June 10, 2007.
  9. Italian reaction to game versus Croatia at 2002 World Cup: website.
  10. Keith Cooper's comments following Italy v. Croatia, World Cup 2002: website. Retrieved on September 6, 2007.
  11. Warnock fury as Arsenal set up double Double - Telegraph
  12. 'Bodycheck' on Michael Tonge, FA Cup 2003, and Neil Warnock's reaction: Article at the Guardian Unlimited website. Retrieved on February 4, 2008.
  13. Wife and children, two daughters and one son: The Guardian, June 1, 2007. Retrieved on January 7, 2008.
  14. London Marathon 2008, finishes in 4hr 20min: from a report at the website. Retrieved on April 13, 2008.
  15. Iain Rennie Hospice at Home, Marathon proceeds recipient: website. Retrieved on April 13, 2008.

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