Sir Alex Ferguson has rightfully received a five match touchline ban from the Football Association following comments he made about referee Martin Atkinson in a television interview. The Scot also received a £30,000 fine following for his outbursts which oozed with disrespect and unprofessionalism.
The Manchester United manager was found guilty of "improper conduct" by an F.A tribunal on Wednesday March 16th.
"The commission found the charge of improper conduct relating to media comments proven, following remarks made in relation to match official Martin Atkinson in post-match interviews after Manchester United's fixture with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday March 1, 2011," said an F.A statement.
The F.A’s heavy handed approach on Sir Alex is a breath of fresh air in a culture where displaying a lack of respect towards match officials has become common practice. Hopefully a clear precedent has now been established, meaning referees can go about their work without having their actions come under scrutiny from managers and players alike.
A football manager should be reminded that they possess less authority than a referee; it should be up to the F.A to discuss mistakes with a referee and no one else. If a team feels aggrieved by a refereeing decision, they should formally inform the F.A of their concerns behind closed doors. Making libellous claims creates a mockery of a referee’s position. How can you have authority, yet be so open to critique at the same time?
Ferguson has a petulant history when it comes to making comments about referees. Last season he received a suspended two game ban for comments made about the fitness of referee Alan Wiley. He has also received a series of two match bans throughout the past decade; in 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2009.
Sir Alex’s most recent rant, combined with his history of bullying, shows that he has no respect for authority—if anything the five game ban is too lenient. Perhaps the F.A should take a similar approach to the punishment handed out by the Scottish F.A on Celtic coach Neil Lennon. Surprisingly though, Carlo Ancelotti disagrees.
The Chelsea manager commented "There is no reason he has to be out for five matches and I do not think that can change their strength and the power of Manchester United."
He added, "I know what he said after the game. Obviously it was not good behavior, but five games is too much."
Ferguson will have forty eight hours to appeal the F.A's verdict meaning that the ban, if upheld, will not come into effect until after United's clash with Bolton on Saturday. Hopefully Ferguson’s right of appeal is nothing more than a formality.
Referees do make mistakes, football clubs should have the right to raise their concerns with the F.A, but it should be done behind closed doors. Hopefully this punishment will mark a change in current trends.
Assuming the ban is upheld, Manchester United will be without Ferguson for half of their remaining Premier League fixtures, including a home match against Everton and a potentially decisive game at the Emirates. Furthermore, he will also miss United’s mouth-watering F.A Cup semi-final tie against “noisy neighbours” Manchester City. Manchester United remain strong contenders in both competitions, but all of a sudden their chances of obtaining a domestic double look a little more challenging. Will the Scot’s dogmatic outburst cost United silverware?