World of Sport: Abuse in football needs to stop at the top

Former football referee Graham Poll. Photo: Nick Potts/PA Wire.
Former football referee Graham Poll. Photo: Nick Potts/PA Wire.
Have your say

I blame Wayne Rooney. I also blame Graham Poll. Ten years ago Rooney launched into the most foul-mouthed rant at referee Poll during an Arsenal/Manchester United match at Highbury.

Rooney swore 20 times at Poll in a game that was screened live on television.

So how did Poll react? He didn’t. No red card shown, not even a yellow one. Poll showed Rooney far more leniency than he would a lesser player.

Rooney hasn’t stopped trying to referee games since. Making him Manchester United captain has made him worse.

He charges around the pitch contesting pretty much every decision. None of our useless referees appear to have the balls to deal with him properly.

Ironically Poll doesn’t referee any more, but he does have a prominent newspaper column which he uses to berate former colleagues on a regular basis.

He’s right in much of what he says, but that’s not the point. He had the chance to do his bit to try and improve player discipline and he blew it.

Footballers are role models. The highest profile footballers have a far greater influence on the behaviour of players at all levels than they care to accept.

Kids practice the skills they see on Match of the Day so it’s only natural that they will also ape the way the Rooneys of this world treat the match officials.

I ramble on because the grassroots football that I witness on a weekly basis is now blighted by appalling antics from players on the pitch in adult games and spectators off it in junior games.

To see the same referee spat at one week and then punched the following week is, thankfully, rare and extreme (the referee in question, Rob Cusick, is a very good local referee, not that ability should make a difference to how he’s treated).

But I suppose it’s also a natural progression from players who show little or no respect for officials.

Abuse can quickly turn into violence on the football pitch as well as the street.

The FA’s ‘Respect’ campaign has been a dismal failure. If players aren’t abusing officials they are trying to con them by diving or faking injury,

Even a well-intentioned player code like kicking the ball out of play so an opponent can be treated for an injury is abused by players who have mastered the art of manipulation.

Even goal celebrations and substitutions have been turned into an exercise in time-wasting. Sadly our officials rarely respond by finding the right punishment - some of them are probably glad of a breather from an unnatural break in play.

A natural dislike of the modern footballer is not ideal given my day job and every time I see, or even experience, some of the witless, foul-mouthed, gobby abuse on a Sunday morning my respect for their profession decreases that little bit further.

Hero of the week: Darragh MacAnthony

Well said Darragh! How refreshing to see a chairman reacting like a fan after a run of dismal displays.

Footballers are the bad teachers of the sporting world. Good money, short working day, long summer holidays and often pampered and protected.

Not at Posh any more. Perform or be publicly flogged. It’s a great tactic.

Read Darragh MacAnthony’s glorious rant on Twitter

The Big Bash has a load of trash

The Big Bash is great fun, but let’s not pretend that we’re seeing action relevant to the international cricket stage.

It’s a competition devoid of all the world’s best players who are busy preparing for a proper world tournament .

So those people who think walking ego Kevin Pietersen should be back in the England team because he has scored a couple of fifties are deluded.

It’s the same with Ben Stokes, a player given every opportunity to prove he’s worthy of an England place. One good innings in the Big Bash changes nothing.

Michael Carberry gets runs in the competition for goodness’ sake and past-it Andrew Flintoff (above) has been included in one of the squads.

On reputation alone judging by his performance so far.

And another thing...


This Ballon D’Or ceremony is a waste of time. Those with a vote just go for their mates and team-mates.

Apart from England manager Roy Hodgson who named Argentinian Javier Mascherano as his world player-of-the-year.

Not Ronaldo, Messi or any other great entertainer, but a destructive midfielder/centre-back. It might not be too late for Karl Henry to win an international cap under Hodgson.


I wouldn’t watch a single game in the BDO World Championships if it wasn’t for the presence of local giant Martin Adams.

The PDC version is obviously superior, but Adams is sensible to chase a £100k prize he could win rather than a £250k prize he couldn’t.

Have your say on World of Sport: by emailing, or on Twitter @PTAlanSwann