Sir Alex Ferguson’s assertion that the Football Association (FA) is inconsistent in disciplinary matters has received backing from on high, according to reports today. FA chief executive Ian Watmore quit amid rumours of personality clashes on the FA’s board. And Watmore has privately backed Ferguson’s claims, according an ESPN report.
Ferguson, angered that Manchester United players have suffered sanction at the FA’s hands when competitors have not, accused the governing body of being inconsistent. It’s an assertion Watmore – an Arsenal season ticket holder – apparently agrees with.
The matter came to a head with the recent suspension of Rio Ferdinand for three matches after an incident with Hull City’s Craig Fagan. The FA added an extra match to the ban for what it described as a “frivolous” appeal.
Meanwhile Liverpool midfielders Javier Mascherno and Steven Gerrard escaped punished for almost identical incidents this season, while Thomas Vermalen’s rejected appeal for an obvious red card at the weekend did not merit an additional match ban according to the FA.
The FA also provided no charge for Gerrard’s involvement in two unsavory incidents in recent matches. First, the Scouser told an official to “f*ck off” before raising a two-fingered salute. Then a week later the Liverpool captain caught Portsmouth’s Michael Brown with a stray elbow.
Meanwhile, Mascherano received no FA charge despite clubbing a Leeds United defender in the back of the head.
“There is no consistency,” said Ferguson of the FA’s disciplinary unit, frequented as it is by amateur county association ‘blazers’.
“It is a dysfunctional unit. I didn’t expect anything to happen to Steven Gerrard. I don’t know what they are doing. There is no consistency for a start and I didn’t expect to get any.”
Ferguson’s anger stems from the injudicious FA decisions in recent years. These include – but are certainly not limited to – Rio Ferdinand’s eight month ban and £50,000 fine for missing a drug test while Manchester City’s Christian Negouai received just a £2,000 fine and no suspension for the same crime.
Almost unbelievably Greaseproof Gerrard – nothing sticks – received a red card in the pre-season Amsterdam Tournament and received no suspension. United’s Paul Scholes and Wayne Rooney were sent from the field in the same competition and each missed three Premier League matches at the FA’s behest.
In 2008, the FA hit Patrice Evra with a four match ban for hitting a Chelsea groundsman despite video evidence demonstrating that the Frenchman had categorically thrown no punch. Worse still, the organisation then attempted to smear United’s coaching staff by releasing carefully selected notes from the supposedly private meeting.
By contrast Manchester City’s Craig Bellamy punched a pitch invader in United’s 4-3 derby victory earlier this season and received no ban despite the incident taking place on national TV. All the more shocking given that the supporter had already been restrained by stewards.
The FA’s board, on which United managing director David Gill sits, today attempted to deny stories of in-fighting. This coming from the organisation that has still not built the National Football Centre in Burton due to internal disagreements, more than a decade after buying the land on which the compound should by now sit.
It is also the body which has overseen the financial problems at Portsmouth, Southend, Cardiff, Crystal Palace and Notts County, while allowing United and Liverpool’s owners to burden the clubs with hundreds of millions in debt.
Unbelievelably the FA still insists that an industry awash with money but responsible for 56 per cent of all football debt in Europe needs no further regulation.
No wonder Watmore jumped ship. United fans can only hope that the hypocrite Gill takes his place.