Graham Poll is this country’s top referee of the last decade. With 16 years as a Premier League official and two World Cups under his belt, he has been there and done it.
Club Website met up with Poll late last year to get his thoughts on refereeing - at grassroots and professional level - and issues such as rule changes and the FA's Respect programme.
The full article - including Poll's tips for young referees, proposed rule changes in the game and much more - can be read in full in the November's edition of The Club House, Club Website’s monthly newsletter.
But with Respect back in the news of late and referee Howard Webb claiming that Respect was making a positive difference we thought we'd bring you some of Graham Poll's thoughts on the issue.
Poll on Respect
"At the moment the FA aren't strong enough and they are doing everything they can to appease players and clubs [at the top level]. I'm pleased to say that counties are autonomous from level 5 down and therefore they are much stronger with ill discipline and they give out big bans, that type of thing.
"If you go to a local park now and watch kids football, it does feel that there is a need for respect to be shown. I'm seeing it as my son plays junior football and there seems to be a will amongst parents so the message has got through. The FA have done a good job in making it public, saying there is this need to show respect to the referee and I think people are mindful of that.
"But [top flight] referees are too weak because they are encouraged to be weak. They are told to recognise the pressure that players are under and see that they showing frustration not dissent. That's rubbish! I did it myself when I was a ref. I've re-watched games that I reffed since and am horrified at what I allowed to happen, but because you're so embroiled in it you don't recognise quite how bad it is.
"The FA need to run the game rather than the Premier League, which means that the top 20 clubs run football. They dictate to the FA what goes on and it's wholly wrong. It's the only country in the world in which it happens. The FA has got to say: We're not having that. We run the game now - referees do your jobs. Be strong. If a player swears at you, send him off.
"People aren't going to like it but it won't take long to sort out. That's what comes back to the local park referees. The players see it time and time again on the TV so they say: It happens on the telly all the time. Get real ref, this is modern football! and the refs don't know what to do.
"That's where there is a dereliction of duty at the top level. I was guilty of that 100 percent but I didn't recognise it at the time. I can see it from outside looking in now and I've written to the FA, I've spoken to them and [referee's chief] Keith Hackett and I've urged them to take this seriously and make it a shining example. It's fallen on deaf ears."
What do you think of the Respect campaign?
Do you agree with Graham Poll that the Respect campaign is not working as top flight refs are encouraged to be weak? Or do you agree with Howard Webb that the Respect programme is "making a difference" in the game?
Put your grassroots refereeing queries to Graham Poll
Club Website have teamed up with Graham Poll to answer your queries over refereeing decisions in your grassroots matches. Who better to clear up a disputed decision from your weekend game?
If you've got a question for Graham, email it to firstname.lastname@example.org. The best questions are answered each month in The Club House and the top questions wins a signed copy of Graham Poll's bestselling book "Seeing Red".
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