FA hits Ferguson with touchline ban for Wiley rant
Sir Alex Ferguson has been handed a two-game touchline ban, with a further two suspended, following his controversial comments regarding referee Alan Wiley.
In the aftermath of Manchester United's 2-2 draw with Sunderland on October 3, Ferguson accused Wiley of being unfit and, although he subsequently apologised for his outburst, he admitted to an FA charge of improper conduct.
At a hearing on Thursday, Ferguson was banned for two games, fined £20,000 and warned as to his future conduct. He will now watch United's next two games, at home to Everton and away to Portsmouth, from the stands.
The United manager will also be banned for a further two games should he commit a similar offence before the end of the 2010-11 season.
"Each member of the commission recognised Sir Alex Ferguson's achievements and stature within the game," commission chairman Peter Griffiths QC said. "Having said that, it was made clear to Sir Alex that with such stature comes increased responsibilities.
"The commission considered his admitted remarks, in the context in which they were made, were not just improper but were grossly improper and wholly inappropriate. He should never have said what he did say."
Ferguson had admitted the charge of improper conduct and apologised to Wiley in the wake of strong opinion his comments had served to undermine the FA's 'Respect' campaign.
However, the Scot maintained his assertion that the fitness of referees in the Premier League remained an issue to be discussed.
"I apologise to Mr Wiley for any personal embarrassment that my remarks may have caused and to the FA for going public with my views,'' Ferguson said at the time via the club's website. "My only intention in speaking publicly was to highlight what I believe to be a serious and important issue in the game, namely that the fitness levels of referees must match the ever-increasing demands of the modern game, which I hope will now be properly addressed through the appropriate formal channels.''
Ferguson continued to be outspoken in his comments about referees even after attracting the FA charge. Following his side's 2-0 defeat to Liverpool last month, Ferguson questioned whether Andre Marriner, who took charge of the game at Anfield, had the required experience for a match of such significance.
He also accused Martin Atkinson of being in an "absolutely ridiculous'' position when he awarded Chelsea the free-kick that led to their winner against United at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.
Alan Leighton, national secretary of officials' union Prospect, revealed his disappointment at the ruling and believes the authorities missed an opportunity to make a statement to back up the FA's Respect campaign.
"From our point of view it is disappointing," Leighton told press Association sport. "The Football Association had a chance to make a point and they flunked it. "To question the fitness of referee is to question his ability to do the job and his integrity.
"We don't think this is sending the right message out to other managers. This is not a personal vendetta against Sir Alex but he has a particular stature within the game and if he is seen to be getting off lightly other managers may think what he said was not beyond the pale.
"What is interesting is that the commission thought the comments were not just improper but were grossly improper and wholly inappropriate.''