Graham Poll leads calls for penalty goals

Graham Poll

Former FIFA referee and Club Website columnist Graham Poll has called on the game's lawmakers to introduce a new 'penalty goal' to prevent the sort of cheating that helped Uruguay qualify for the World Cup semi-final.

The South Americans were on the brink of elimination from the competition in the dying seconds of injury time in their quarter-final with Ghana as Dominic Adiyah's header flew goalwards with the goalkeeper stranded.

History beckoned for Ghana, who would have become the first African side to reach the last four of a World Cup, before Uruguay's Luis Suarez - the last line of defence - stretched out his arms and deliberately palmed the ball away to prevent a certain goal.

The officials spotted the incident and dismissed Suarez whilst awarding a penalty to Ghana, but Asamoah Gyan missed the chance to send the Black Stars through and the subsequent penalty shootout went Uruguay's way.

The sense of injustice at the incident has led to much debate within the game, with calls for changes to the law to ensure such an act of cheating is punished - and Club Website's favourite referee has been at the front of the queue.

"FIFA make every player wear a 'fair play' badge and yet a cheats' charter exists which Luis Suarez exploited to help his side reach [the] semi-final," Poll wrote in his Daily Mail column this week.

"The officials got it spot on, dismissing Suarez and awarding a penalty, but that gave Uruguay a lifeline they did not deserve."

Suarez was dismissed for the denial of goalscoring opportunity - his statutory one-match ban means his misses this evening's semi-final against Holland - but this does not go far enough, according to Poll.

Graham Poll"The problem is that Ghana were denied a goal, not just the opportunity to score one. A penalty goal in these circumstances would be appropriate."

Many people have argued that Suarez was merely acting instinctively - a fair claim, but one which Poll believes doesn't prevent justice being done to the attacking team:

"If that is true then awarding a penalty goal and a yellow card seems more appropriate. Then the wronged team would not be denied a goal and the instinctive act less harshly punished."

In rugby, penalty-tries are awarded for deliberate penalty infringements near the goal-line that prevent try-scoring opportunities, but football's law-makers are usually reluctant to take notice of how other sports manage themselves.

But, with a sense of injustice still lingering over the World Cup as the semi-final approaches, many people that the time has come for something to be done.

Football's Laws of the Game were written well over a century ago and, as the game has evolved, changes to the laws haven't always kept pace.

The top level of the game is professional to the core and Suarez did everything he could to help his team progress. The officials, for their part, did all they could within the rules of the game so, if the laws don't prevent such a deliberate act of cheating from gaining a side an advantage, then surely it's time to change the laws?

Have your say!

What did you think of the idea of 'penalty goals'? Should more be done to deal with cynical offences of this nature? Or would it open a whole new can of worms?

Geoff Hurst and the Hand of GodTell us what you think in our comments section below and get onto your club website or league website and have your say in our online poll.

Hear from Graham Poll every month in The Club House

Each and every month, Graham Poll answers your refereeing queries in our monthly newsletter, The Club House. You can sign up now to read Graham's monthly offerings and, if you've got a question for our number one ref, email it to or just post it in the comments field below. The best question each month wins a copy of Graham's book on World Cup controversies, Geoff Hurst and the Hand of God.

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