Sir Alex and the FA: Plenty to Chew on

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Sir Alex and the FA: Plenty to Chew on
David Rogers/Getty Images
The calm in the storm - Sir Alex Ferguson sits in the snow at White Hart Lane before his heated comments.

Is impunity implied in hypocrisy? Ask the man steering the ship at Old Trafford.

In 2011, Sir Alex Ferguson claimed "it is not an issue for me. I don't think managers disrespect referees” regarding the Football Association’s Respect campaign. But the Manchester United boss has again drawn heat from the FA, questioning the abilities of the officiating crew, specifically linesman Simon Beck, after the 1-1 draw against Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane last Sunday.

His comments about the performance of the aggrieved official has prompted the FA to request an explanation of his comments. One can only wonder at how he will explain away how he wasn’t questioning the integrity of a match official when he not only used the term “shocking,” in describing Beck’s performance, but his motivations for the performance as well. No disrespect at all.

Respect is a superlative. And yet there it floats, to be forcibly submerged or allowed to bob around on the surface according to the need it serves in the moment. Respect has become an empty vessel, and the periodic hammering on it in the attempt to drum up support, only proves how hollow it truly is.

The ability for the FA (less-than-affectionately dubbed “Ferguson Association”) to be impartial in their judgment has been questioned by many. A tweet from Not Brian Kettle (@briankettle) asserted, “As well as an explanation, the FA has asked Ferguson for a draft of the press release they should issue afterwards.”  

Objectivity and its cousin, consistency, are scarce commodities in the FA. Despite showing some bottle in the past regarding Sir Alex’s outbursts (issuing him a five-game ban and a £30,000 fine for his comments about Martin Atkinson in March 2011), the FA vacillates in application of justice, ducking into the cracks that interpretation offers.

The "rational and reasonable" conversation with Mike Dean Photograph: John Peters/Man Utd via Getty Images

Ferguson’s much-publicized bust up with Mike Dean and his assistants during the 4-3 thriller against Newcastle on December 26 resulted in no sanctions as referee Dean, who claimed Ferguson’s protests were “reasonable and rational,” did not file a report, effectively nullifying any further action.  

This is the same Mike Dean who gave Arsene Wenger his marching orders when he kicked a water bottle in frustration during a game against Manchester United, prompting the Daily Mail’s Adam Shergold article to ask One rule for Fergie and one for the rest?

With Sam Allardyce having to contest a charge made by the FA regarding his comments over the officiating in the West Ham loss to the very same Red Devils, and Ferguson submitting an explanation for his comments to the FA, the goose and the gander are in the same room. The pot and the kettle, too. But if the rulings offered in the separate John Terry and Luis Suarez racism cases are any indication, the devil–red or otherwise–will be in the details.

Love him or hate him, SAF is the paragon that defines the hierarchy of power in the English game. And perhaps, in his irascible and unapologetic manner, he is a necessary evil in illuminating the ineffectiveness of the governing body–effectively bullying the bullies.

And history would suggest that, regardless of the outcome next week, Ferguson will at some point again blow the FA’s skirt up, exposing the lack of anything resembling what it takes to be a governing body.

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