Graham Poll leads calls for penalty goals

Graham Poll

Graham Poll has lead the calls for the introduction of penalty goals

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 [email protected] 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.

Dan Pope on LinkedinDan Pope on Twitter
Dan Pope
Writer at Teamer
Freelance writer, editor and copywriter, with a passion for grassroots sport. A right back turned football writer, Dan is the former editor of Club Website and has been lucky enough to work in the field of grassroots and community sport for the last 10 years.

Take the hassle out of organising your sports team with Teamer. Organise, communicate and take payments.


  1. steve blackmore on July 7, 2010 at 8:44 am

    they have had the same idea in rugby union for years now and i think it would be the right way to go but the law has to be very clear on what makes a clear goal opportunity as it may open a can of worms … but in the main it would work

  2. Spencer Courtis on July 7, 2010 at 12:22 pm

    Amen Mr Poll – my prayer is for the law you suggest to be passed very shortly!

    I think it would be more appropriate to call it ‘the hand of hell’ in these instances.

  3. Spencer Courtis on July 7, 2010 at 1:38 pm

    Another thought – as for the law being clear on the penalty goal matter, as in all penalties, a penalty goal will be decided upon by the referee – as simple as that.

  4. Harry Blaen on July 8, 2010 at 6:45 pm

    It’s a non starter. If referees are so keen to see ‘justice’ done why not give the offending player two red cards?

  5. Florida Phil on July 10, 2010 at 11:02 pm

    Penalty Goal is certainly the way forwards. But what I dont understand in this particular case is that it was such a blatent act of cheating, why didn’t the Referee just have the penalty retaken, i’m sure that if you checked the replays there must of been someone encroaching or even the Goalkeeper must of moved either way I think the Ref would of got away with it and justice would of been served and the right team (Ghana) would of gone through. Just a thought.

  6. Crusher on July 11, 2010 at 4:39 pm

    I would go further than give a penalty goal and a red card. A penalty goal, as well as a penalty kick, giving the opposition achance to score a second goal, to go with the red card which should be accompanied by a 12 month ban without pay.
    So called experts say it is instictive to handle on the line in such circumstances. Rubbish.

  7. Dubmire Richie on July 12, 2010 at 10:22 am

    the only way you will get any rule changes which by the way i think Mr Polls idea is spot on [pard0n the pun] is to get rid of a certain Mr Blatter who seems to put a block on any form of progress ie camera technology

  8. Steve Smith on July 12, 2010 at 3:00 pm

    It’s OK for Mr Poll, who’s no longer refereeing and won’t be around to face the consequences.

    If the handball is on the line and clearly prevents a goal, I can see that it’s in everyone’s interests to award the goal and send off the player. But what if it the handball was on the six yard line? What if it was on the 18 yard line with no other players behind and going into goal? 18 yards but also a player behind? 2 players behind? What if it it was probably going in to goal but probably not?

    It just opens up debate about the referee’s opinion and line of vision. At least now the debate is about the law and not about whether the referee made the right decision. We have enough of those debates already!

  9. david on July 13, 2010 at 9:32 am

    hm controvery jumps out from this what happens when the ball comes of the shoulder/arm and player had leant into path of ball what happens if it is ball to hand whoever says it is not instinctive to save with the hand on goal line has never played and what happens when the poor wee ref gets it wrong remember hes ONLY EVER going to be half right leave things the way they are the reason gyana didn”t go through is the guy missed the spot kick the eejit

  10. Jack on July 13, 2010 at 6:56 pm

    Steve Smith i think this should be used in conjunction with technology to check wether the goal would have definately gone in.

  11. lewis on July 14, 2010 at 1:09 am

    He has got the right idea, but still coming from the man who handed out 3 yellow cards t the same player in 1 match

  12. Florida Phil on July 14, 2010 at 3:13 pm

    In answer to Steve Smith’s concerns, surely the easiest way around that would be if it is normally a penalty decision, then its a penalty goal, that way the offending player doesnt gain any advantage by blatently cheating no matter what the offense, in the case of the referee not being 100% sure, he could then refer to technology, it might slow the game up a little but at the end of the day if the decision is 100% correct then everyone should in theory be happy.
    It is a shame that football has come to this it is no longer a sport, it is now a big money business and the rewards for cheating by far out weigh the honesty, in fact in alot of cases the offenders become heroes.

Join the discussion