Football: League acts after Poll `threats'

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THE PREMIER LEAGUE is set to take measures to safeguard match officials both before and following games next season. The referee Graham Poll has claimed he was "threatened and severely abused" by Newcastle supporters after this year's FA Cup final.

The Premier League referees' officer, Philip Don, is already planning greater security for referees and their assistants next season.

"We are looking at ways of improving the communication between referees and their assistants. This may well include time spent together before and after the game," said the Premier League spokesman, Mike Lee. "We will also have the advantage of providing some improved security for officials. We are always looking at ways of developing support to referees and their assistants."

Poll admitted he is worried about his own safety and revealed he was subjected to a storm of verbal abuse at Wembley. The Surrey official is concerned that violent fans are targeting referees and looking to settle old scores even when they are off duty. Poll was shaken after an altercation with Newcastle fans following their 2-0 Wembley defeat by Manchester United.

"I can only assume that before the match they remembered that I had taken charge of four Newcastle defeats over the past season and apportioned some blame to me," he said. "Following the match I was threatened and severely abused verbally, which left me feeling unsure as to my safety."

The Dundee defender Brian Irvine has been true to his word and signed for the Scottish Second Division club Ross County. Irvine was initially interviewed by the ambitious former Highland League side, but County feared they would lose him when the player's former club Aberdeen, and Hibernian, showed interest.

The Celtic defender Marc Rieper could be forced to retire because of a long-standing toe injury. Rieper, a member of the Danish World Cup squad last summer, had a meeting with the club physiotherapist, Brian Scott, at the weekend and was told his career may be over.