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By ESPN Staff

Poll: Diving clampdown would have backlash

England's World Cup referee Graham Poll has explained why match officials feel they cannot adopt a 'zero tolerance' approach.

Referees have been criticised for not coming down harder on players who dive and others who surround officials following controversial decisions.

Chelsea have twice been charged with failing to control their players in recent weeks after surrounding referees at West Brom and Fulham, while their striker Didier Drogba has also been accused of diving - a claim he admitted and then denied in the same interview.

However, Poll claims referees would lose any sympathy from fans and pundits alike if, as some commentators have suggested, they should just send off repeat offenders.

On diving, Poll told the Daily Mail: 'We need some understanding about how difficult it is to stop. The cure is with the players, the coaches, the clubs.

'We are not sitting here saying people aren't diving. They are and we'd like it to stop.

'In a perfect world, every time a player goes over, it would be because he's slipped or has been fouled. It would make our lives easier.

'If we went out and went zero tolerance, bang... we suspect he's dived: yellow card. Public sympathy would disappear.

'Trust me, the pendulum would swing. Referees have picked things up to clamp down on before that would safeguard players. By September, there's a crisis. 'Referees are rubbish, they're spoiling the game'.

'Phone-ins are packed with callers saying they don't pay this money to watch reserves. They want the A-list stars in matches, not sitting in the stand suspended. So we have to balance that; we have to manage our way through games credibly. Including simulation. And the obvious ones we have to get right.'

As for players harassing a referee if a decision goes against their team, Poll added: 'The easiest way to referee a game is to go out there, zero tolerance and go 'bang, bang, bang, free-kick, yellow card, free-kick, red card'.

'Then nobody will come surrounding us on the pitch then, but everyone will say, 'What a tosser that ref is'. You have to find your way through the game credibly, within the framework of the laws of the game so that everyone goes 'Yeah, okay, we understand what he is trying to achieve. He's done okay'.

'The answer has to be 'We have to be stronger'.'

Former Premiership referee Matt Messias, who decided to retire from the game last month, revealed some players now consider themselves almost above the laws of the game.

Messias told the Yorkshire Post about a game involving Paul Ince and Dennis Wise when Wolves played Millwall at Molineux.

'Wise was captaining Millwall and Ince was captaining Wolves,' he said. 'At the toss-up they say 'Matt, leave us alone today please, we are going to kick **** out of each other. Will you just let us get on with it?

'I had to think on my feet. I could either ruin their game by being involved too much, or risk abuse from supporters by letting them have a great time in the middle of the pitch. Against my better judgment, I opted to go with the players and they did exactly what they said they were going to do.

'Every time there was a crunch, I got told to leave my yellow card in my pocket. The crowd were chanting 'off, off, off' and didn't realise what was going on. They must have thought I was the worst referee in the world but at pitch level I had all the players' respect.'

Messias added: 'You are under a lot of pressure from players, managers and supporters. You drive home after a game and people will be on the radio having a go at you, Match of the Day and the Sunday papers will be having a go at you.'

Meanwhile another top official, Dermot Gallagher, says he finds it 'astonishing' that referees still do not receive more technological assistance with debatable decisions, such as whether the ball crosses the goal-line.

He told Shoot Monthly: 'I find it astonishing in 1969 somebody can put a man on moon yet 37 years later we can't tell whether the ball is over the line.

'I embrace everything that will help a referee. I would launch technology for determining whether or not the ball has crossed the line.

'The situation is very cut and dried, a statement of fact and is such an important decision if a goal is scored.'