Graham Poll

Graham Poll (born 29 July 1963) is an English former football referee in the Premier League and is considered the best English referee of the last 25 years in a list maintained by the International Federation of Football History and Statistics (IFFHS).[2] With 26 years of experience,[3] he was regarded as one of the most prominent referees[4][5] in the Premier League, often taking charge of the highest-profile games. His final domestic game in a career spanning 1,544 matches was the Championship play-off final on 28 May 2007 between Derby County and West Bromwich Albion.[6]

Graham Poll
Graham poll.JPG
Full name Graham Poll
Born (1963-07-29) 29 July 1963 (age 57)
Hitchin, Hertfordshire, England[1]
Other occupation Television pundit, newspaper columnist
Years League Role
?–1991 Isthmian League Referee
1986–1991 Football League Asst. referee
1991–1993 Football League Referee
1993–2007 Premier League Referee
Years League Role
1996–2007 FIFA listed Referee

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

At the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany, he refereed two matches successfully. In his third game, Croatia vs Australia, he cautioned Croatian defender Josip Šimunić three times before sending him off. Poll retired from refereeing international tournament finals matches shortly after, citing his error in the match. He continued to referee in the Premier League, 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 his chance.[7]

Football careerEdit

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.[8]

Having held a FIFA 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 Premier League match on 13 May 2007, between Portsmouth and Arsenal in which he controversially, but correctly, denied Portsmouth European qualification by ruling out a Niko Kranjčar goal for offside.

His last ever match was to have been the Euro 2008 qualifying match on 6 June 2007.[9] After it was discovered 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[10] the match was overseen by Mike Riley instead. In August 2007, Poll released his autobiography entitled "Seeing Red", and concentrated on being a pundit for BBC Sport's football coverage, and as a columnist with The Daily Mail, his feature entitled "The Official Line".[11]

In the dying seconds of the Merseyside derby between Everton and Liverpool on 21 April 2000 with the score at 0–0,[12] the Liverpool goalkeeper kicked the ball into 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.[13]

Poll refereed the Italy versus Croatia game at the 2002 FIFA World Cup, played on Saturday 8 June 2002. Poll had a busy game, as there were forty-two fouls, three goals scored, two goals disallowed, and two bookings. Poll was given one more appointment at that world cup: Fourth Official to Pierluigi Collina in the second round match which Turkey beat Japan 1–0.[14]

Poll was the only English referee at the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany. His first game was South Korea vs Togo. Poll sent off Jean-Paul Abalo of Togo for a second bookable offence, and the match was eventually won by South Korea 2–1. His second game was Saudi Arabia vs Ukraine. The Ukrainians finished the match as the 4–0 winners, with Poll showed six yellows, three to each side. His last game was Croatia vs Australia. After already sending off two players, Poll failed to send off Josip Šimunić for a second yellow card late in the match, eventually sending him off for a third yellow for dissent at the final whistle.[15] Poll stated that he had erred in his second booking of Šimunić, marking his card with the correct number (3) but in the wrong column due to Šimunić's Australian accent, meaning he booked Australia’s Craig Moore instead of Simunic. The game ended 2–2, putting Australia through to the next round. On 28 June, 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.[16] 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."[7]

Poll retired from international tournament finals football on 29 June 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.[7]

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.[7]

2002 World Cup statisticsEdit

  • Games officiated: 1
  • Goals seen: 3
  • Bookings: 2
  • Reds: 0
  • Penalties awarded: 0
Event Games        
2002 World Cup 1 2 0 0

2006 World Cup statisticsEdit

  • Games officiated: 3
  • Goals seen: 11
  • Bookings: 16
  • Reds: 4
  • Penalties awarded: 1
Event Games        
2006 World Cup 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

Career highlightsEdit

International career detailsEdit

1998 FIFA World Cup qualification

UEFA Euro 2000

2002 FIFA World Cup qualification

2002 FIFA World Cup

2006 FIFA World Cup qualification

2005 FIFA Club World Championship

2006 FIFA World Cup

Card statisticsEdit

Season Games Total     per game Total     per game
1995–96 21 62 2.95 3 0.14
1997–98 28 113 4.03 12 0.42
1998–99 32 119 3.71 9 0.28
1999–2000 40 136 3.40 6 0.15
2000–01 43 119 2.76 11 0.25
2001–02 45 120 2.66 6 0.13
2002–03 40 119 2.98 5 0.12
2003–04 42 114 2.71 4 0.09
2004–05 45 124 2.75 5 0.11
2005–06 49 166 3.38 10 0.20
2006–07 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 referees 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. Since the end of 2009, Poll has also appeared as a regular news paper reviewer on Sky News Sunrise.

Personal lifeEdit

Born in Hitchin,[1] Poll grew up in Bandley Hill and Shephall, and attended Ashtree Junior School and Alleyne's School.[17][18] He is married to Julia. The couple have two daughters (Gemma and Josie), and one son (Harry).[19] Poll continues with charity work, and ran in the London Marathon on 13 April 2008, finishing in a time of four hours and 20 minutes.[20] The proceeds went to the Iain Rennie Hospice at Home.[21]


  1. ^ a b Roberts, Damion (5 February 2015). "Interview: Former referee Graham Poll on his return to action at Hitchin Town". The Comet. Stevenage: Archant. Retrieved 10 November 2015. Poll was born in Hitchin and went to Thomas Alleyne School in Stevenage, before taking up refereeing locally in both the Hitchin Sunday and the Stevenage Sunday League. He had moved to Tring, and then to Reading, so being born in the town 'didn’t really come up; I wasn’t seen as having any particular allegiance.'
  2. ^ "IFFHS". Archived from the original on 14 October 2013. Retrieved 23 March 2014.
  3. ^ Mark Kendall (29 June 2006). "Poll ends international career". Sky Sports. Archived from the original on 18 March 2007. Retrieved 10 July 2006.
  4. ^ Lawrie Madden (23 August 2002). "Poll: Scrutiny is relentless". Archived from the original on 15 January 2004. Retrieved 10 July 2006.
  5. ^ "World-Poll blows whistle on wedding anniversary". Reuters. 5 June 2006. Retrieved 23 June 2006.
  6. ^ Graham Poll's retirement Archived 19 November 2007 at the Wayback Machine: Guardian Unlimited, 28 May 2007. Retrieved 28 May 2007.
  7. ^ a b c d Lutz, Tom (29 June 2006). "Poll retires from international game". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 29 June 2006.
  8. ^ Profile Archived 15 January 2008 at the Wayback Machine: the Football League official website. Retrieved 4 February 2008. he has now retired
  9. ^ Poll no-show Archived 26 January 2008 at the Wayback Machine for his last ever game as a referee, Finland v. Belgium, 6 June 2007): (6 June 2007). Retrieved 7 June 2007.
  10. ^ Interview given in May 2007 Archived 28 October 2016 at the Wayback Machine regarding FA support for referees: (30 May 2007). Retrieved 31 May 2007.
  11. ^
  12. ^ Everton v. Liverpool, 2000 Archived 23 December 2004 at the Wayback Machine: website. Retrieved 17 February 2008.
  13. ^ "Time to forgive Poll for howler" Archived 22 February 2012 at the Wayback Machine: Liverpool Echo, 9 June 2007. Retrieved 17 February 2008.
  14. ^ Keith Cooper's comments Archived 8 April 2008 at the Wayback Machine following Italy v. Croatia, World Cup 2002: website. Retrieved 6 September 2007.
  15. ^ "Worldcup06 22.6. Croatia - Australia 2-2". Retrieved 10 July 2006.
  16. ^ "Ref Poll sent home from World Cup". BBC. 28 June 2006. Retrieved 28 June 2006.
  17. ^ "Graham Poll" (pdf). Hall of Fame 2010. Sports Stevenage. 2010. Retrieved 9 July 2010.[dead link]
  18. ^ "Graham Poll - Legendary English Football Official". Testimonials. IMG. Archived from the original on 29 September 2011. Retrieved 9 July 2010.
  19. ^ Wife and children[permanent dead link], two daughters and one son: The Guardian, 1 June 2007. Retrieved 7 January 2008.
  20. ^ London Marathon 2008 Archived 16 April 2008 at the Wayback Machine, finishes in 4hr 20min: from a report at the website. Retrieved 13 April 2008.
  21. ^ Iain Rennie Hospice at Home Archived 4 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine, Marathon proceeds recipient: website. Retrieved 13 April 2008.

External linksEdit

Preceded by
  Pierluigi Collina
UEFA Cup Final referee
Succeeded by
  Herbert Fandel
Preceded by
Peter Jones
FA Charity Shield referee
Succeeded by
Graham Barber
Preceded by
Peter Jones
FA Cup Final referee
Succeeded by
Steve Dunn
Preceded by
David Elleray
Football League Cup Final referee
Succeeded by
Paul Durkin