Sir Alex Ferguson will sit in the stands for Manchester United’s matches against Everton and Portsmouth after the Football Association handed the manager a four game touchline ban, with two suspended. The FA Regulatory Commission also fined Ferguson £20,000 and warned the Scot about his future conduct following a hearing on Thursday. Ferguson earlier admitted a charge of improper conduct.
The charge relates to Ferguson’s comments in the media about referee Alan Wiley following United’s draw with Sunderland last month. Ferguson, who claimed that Wiley was unfit to referee a Premier League match, later apologised for the personal nature of the remarks and admitted the FA charge.
In making his judgement to ban Ferguson, the first time the FA has ever handed down such a sanction for comments in the media, Commission Chairman Peter Griffiths QC revealed the FA’s intention to make an example of the United manager. Just as the governing body made scapegoats of Rio Ferdinand, Eric Cantona, Wayne Rooney, Paul Scholes and Roy Keane before him.
“Each member of the Commission recognised Sir Alex Ferguson’s achievements and stature within the game. Having said that, it was made clear to Sir Alex that with such stature comes increased responsibilities,” Griffiths said.
“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.”
It is not the first time the FA has handed down an unprecedented punishment to a United player or official. In fact it’s almost a habit, as Scott from Republik of Mancunia points out:
Reminder of FA’s dealings with United
– Manchester City’s Christian Negouai was fined £2k and received no ban for missing a drugs test around the same time the FA fined Rio Ferdinand £50k and an eight month ban.
– Manchester City’s Robbie Fowler scored a late goal against United and celebrated in front of our travelling fans, holding up his five digits to represent Liverpool’s success in Europe and received no punishment. A week later, Gary Neville celebrated in front of Liverpool’s travelling fans following a late goal and was fined £5k.
– Liverpool’s Steven Gerrard and Neil Mellor were sent off in the pre-season friendly Amsterdam tournament and received no punishment. Wayne Rooney and Paul Scholes were sent off in the same tournament a couple of years later and were banned for three league matches.
– Craig Bellamy hits a restrained fan in front of the world’s cameras and receives a warning. Patrice Evra allegedly punched a Chelsea groundsman, although there was compelling evidence to the contrary (the CCTV footage which recorded the incident showed no punch) and receives a four match ban.
Perhaps even more seriously referees in recent Premier League matches against Liverpool and Chelsea made a series of unfathomable decisions. Firslty, at Anfield Jamie Carragher got away with an obvious professional foul while Dimitar Berbatov saw yellow in a decision that even neutrals found bizarre. Then at Stamford Bridge officials made three errors in the lead up to Chelsea’s winning goal while ignoring a cast-iron penalty appeal from Ferguson’s team.
The two suspended games will be automatically activated should Ferguson be found guilty of a similar charge before the end of the 2010/11 season. It’s a decision that will make sure Ferguson cannot again criticise referees, even when he is right.