The Football Association is to launch an investigation into claims by Chelsea players that the referee Graham Poll targeted the champions in Sunday's defeat at Tottenham with a view to "teaching them a lesson". In addition, Keith Hackett, the referees' chief, is to meet Jose Mourinho, Chelsea's manager, to "run through a number of issues".
These initiatives followed further criticism of Poll's performance by John Terry, the England captain, who was dismissed by the Tring official at White Hart Lane.
The FA will contact Poll, Mourinho and Chelsea's Ashley Cole and Frank Lampard. On Monday Cole claimed that Poll had told Lampard during the game that Chelsea "needed to be taught a lesson". Hackett said Poll "absolutely denied" this. He pointed out that all referees had microphones and any such comment would have been heard by his assistants and the referee's assessor.
The investigation could lead to Cole, who also claimed referees in general was biased against Chelsea, being charged with bringing the game into disrepute. If found guilty, he could be fined. If Poll were proven to have said what it is claimed he did, then he could be suspended.
Hackett, the head of the referees' administrative body, the Professional Game Match Officials Board, said of Cole's comments: "It is disappointing. It puts doubt in the public's mind about the integrity of one of my referees.I want to assure the public that I have very serious doubt - without trying to prejudice the case - that one of our most experienced and world-class referees would make that kind of comment."
Of his projected meeting with Mourinho, Hackett said: "I am pleased he wants to speak to me. It shows he cares and wants to understand. I will meet him to run through a number of issues regarding referees."
Hackett added: "In the last two seasons Mourinho has invited Graham [Poll] to talk to the players about various aspects of the law and its interpretation. Sometimes a confident referee can be perceived as an arrogant referee but, in terms of his approach to the game, his post-match analysis and his willingness to improve, Graham is still top drawer."
Hackett said he had "told Graham not to comment on this matter, because it may be investigated by the football authorities," but the official could not resist. "It's of no interest to me what Ashley Cole says about me," said Poll. "I don't get involved in tittle-tattle."
Hackett said he was "not happy when a player publicly criticises a referee, because I believe I have put in place the channels to satisfy their frustrations".
This was before Terry added his voice to the chorus. Terry's red card - his first in 288 games for Chelsea - was for incurring two yellows. While he had no argument with the first, for a foul on Dimitar Berbatov, Terry claimed Poll had given conflicting versions of the reasoning behind the second caution.
"I am still really baffled by it," Terry said. "I have looked at it myself over and over again. Ledley [King] and I fell to the floor. We got up. We had words, but I used to play Sunday football with him and it was just the pair of us shouting at each other.
"I walked away. [Pascal] Chimbonda pushed me in the back and I carried on running. On the pitch, Graham Poll said to me [the second yellow card] was for the barge on [Hossam] Ghaly where I kept running.
"After the game [Poll] said it was for the fall when Ledley and I fell. He has obviously had a look at it or got people to look at it and decided that is the best option which covers every angle for him. I am really disappointed."
Terry will serve a one-match suspension for the red card - missing tonight's Carling Cup fourth-round game against Aston Villa at Stamford Bridge. The Villa manager, Martin O'Neill, has backed Chelsea against Poll, saying:"Referees should explain. There is no reason why they couldn't go to a press conference afterwards. We could all benefit."