Crystal Palace

Top Five worst refereeing decisions of the modern game

There's often a good reason why players surround referees

There's often a good reason why players surround referees

There’s been a lot of controversy surrounding referees recently – when isn’t there? – with the debate about diving having been brought up following dives by David N’Gog and Darren Bent. With that in mind, let’s take a look at five of the worst decisions by officials in recent years, all of which are worse than these latest penalty claims:

5. Freddie Sears scores but doesn’t score.

Crystal Palace thought they’d taken the lead at Ashton Gate when on-loan striker Freddie Sears fired home against Bristol City earlier this season. However, the ball bounced out of the goal and the referee didn’t give it, claiming the ball had never crossed the line! This prompted outrage from Palace manager Neil Warnock and owner Simon Jordan and the Eagles are still fuming about the decision to this day.


4. Stuart Attwell gives Reading a goal

It was goalless at Vicarage Road in the clash between Reading and Watford last season when Stephen’s Hunt’s corner pinged around the area with Reading swiping at goal a few times without scoring. Except that linesman Nigel Bannister thought they did and promptly told referee Stuart Attwell that a goal had been scored. Attwell accepted the decision and gave the goal despite the ball never crossing the line and no Reading players even having appealed for a goal!


3. South Korea get home advantage

During the World Cup in 2002 co-hosts South Korea impressed by getting as far as the semi finals. How did they manage it? Well, with the help of referees of course. In the first knockout round against Spain the Spaniards had two perfectly good goals disallowed – the first for supposed pushing in the area and then the second as the ball had supposedly gone out of play. It hadn’t. Then in the quarter finals of the competition Italy had a perfectly good goal ruled out for offside, a big penalty claim turned down and Francesco Totti sent off for diving against the Koreans. Luck? Or was it something more than that?


2. Pedro Mendes fails to earn 3 points

It was January in 2005 and still goalless at Old Trafford in the clash between Manchester United and Tottenham when Spurs midfielder Pedro Mendes launched a highly optimistic 50 yard effort goalwards which caught out United ‘keeper Roy Carroll and flew a good way into the goal before Carroll could embarrassedly shove it out of his goal. Stunningly the referee declared that the ball had not passed the goal line, thus denying Spurs a rare win at Old Trafford.


1. Graham Poll effectively ends his international career

Such was the awfulness of this refereeing that English referee Graham Poll, supposedly the best England had to offer at the time, retired from international competitions after causing controversy in a World Cup 2006 clash between Croatia and Australia. Poll booked Croatia defender Josip Simunic once. Then he booked him again. And then he booked him again and finally brought out the red card. Yes, Poll had booked Simunic three times and not sent him off after the second one, thus allowing Croatia to have more players on the pitch than they should have had for a good part of the game. Top level referees should not be so absent-minded and it remains one of the worst cases of refereeing in history.


As you can see, all of these decisions were absolutely terrible and cost teams in some way or another. Are there any other refereeing decisions you think should be up there? Obviously there are the classics like Maradona’s “Hand of God” but we’re looking back here 10 years at maximum as there’ve been too many mistakes over the years. These referees make a good case for video technology coming into football, that’s for sure!

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