Graham Poll is a nice man. You'd expect referees to be extremely stern, possibly telling you off for your posture or ordering you to spit out your chewing gum. There is none of this with Graham, a man that refereed in two World Cups and at the highest level in England for most of the last decade. He’s having a lovely time watching the World Cup, the first since his unfortunate incident with the three yellow cards. Let us never speak of this again.
Hello Graham. How much of the World Cup have you been watching?
“I’ve been watching all of it. It was a bit slow to start, but generally people have been saying the referees have been good, apart from a few obvious mistakes here and there.”
Do refs really get told to clamp down on specific things before the World Cup?
“Oh yeah, and not just before the World Cup but as it unfolds. Every day referees receive a briefing at the refereeing camp, which is where about 130 officials live during the World Cup.”
Do you reckon the vuvuzelas are affecting officials at this year’s tournament?
“No they’re not, at least that’s what the refs out there have been telling me. They can hear each other okay.”
Have you ever refereed anywhere so loud that it made it difficult to do your job?
“Yeah, in places where there’s a huge amount of whistling from the home crowd. If you make an unpopular decision is does startle you a bit, but you’ve just got to get on with it.”
Does anywhere stick out as especially difficult?
“Istanbul in Turkey was the most intimidating place. When you go out onto the pitch and you’re being escorted by riot police and protected by shields you think ‘This is a bit different, what’s it going to be like at the end of the game?’”
Did you ever get asked for your autograph at a World Cup?
“If people think they would like a referee’s autograph then I’m happy to give them one. You’ve just got to make sure you don’t write ‘best wishes, hope you win 2-0’.”
Can you tell when you’re being sworn at in a foreign language?
“It’s more how things are being said rather than what’s being said. If someone’s coming up to you waving their arms around you know he’s probably not asking you how you’re so good as a match official.”
Did you ever think “you bastard” after a player had dived and conned you?
“Certainly not in those terms. You’re more annoyed with yourself if you get conned.”
Does it annoy you when pundits criticise refs?
“Not really, they’ve got their job to do and you’ve got your job to do. Most of the criticism comes from ignorance and people not knowing the laws of the game, which is frustrating. If you see TV as public service then the people covering it should know the laws. Someone in this tournament said that a player might get off a yellow card on appeal. You can’t appeal yellow cards.
When you showed Croatia’s Josip Simunic three yellow cards in 2006, who was the first person to point out what you’d done?
“I got a message through from a FIFA official about 20 minutes after the end of the game. It was the first I’d heard of it. It was alleged that Mark Viduka told me on the pitch, but I don’t recall him speaking to me.
Is it painful for you to talk about it?
Graham Poll is offering more of his World Cup insights at The Coral Dug Out, a place where punters can get the most out of every World Cup game from a betting perspective. Get the most out of every World Cup game at www.coraldugout.com or in any Coral shop.