Sir Alex manages to offer apology whilst still standing his ground. Legend!
SIR ALEX FERGUSON yesterday released a statement of apology to Alan Wiley, the referee he accused of being “unfit” after his club’s 2-2 draw with Sunderland last weekend. Ferguson will telephone the official this week in an attempt to draw a line under an affair that distressed Wiley and for which the Football Association may yet censure the Manchester United boss.
In his apology, Ferguson also said sorry to the FA in a bid to mitigate punishment from the governing body, who are still expected to charge him for his remarks but may now consider fining United’s manager rather than imposing a touchline ban. “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. In retrospect, I accept that this could be deemed as expressing those views in an inappropriate forum,” Ferguson said. “It was never my intention to bring the focus of intense media attention on Mr Wiley.”
At Old Trafford last Saturday, Ferguson accused Wiley of “simply not being fit enough to referee a game of that stature” and claimed he should have added more than four minutes of stoppage time, implying Wiley had cut it short because he was tired. “It’s an indictment of our game that we see referees from abroad who are as fit as butcher’s dogs. We’ve got some good referees in our country who are fit, but [Wiley] wasn’t fit,” Ferguson had said.
Ferguson’s apology drew a strong response from Alan Leighton, the national secretary of Prospect, the trade union that represents referees. He suggested that only strong FA action would satisfy his members. “If the FA don’t satisfy us, we would have to take legal action. Any issue of defamation would be against Sir Alex,” he said. “It looks good in that he says he has always respected Alan Wiley’s integrity and has never said he was a biased or a bad ref. But he doesn’t withdraw his remark about Alan not being fit or apologise for it. And saying a referee is not fit is actually questioning his integrity.
“What Sir Alex appears to be trying to do is to say he has apologised and therefore that should be the end of the matter. But what he’s done is crank it up.”
“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.
“In retrospect, I accept that this could be deemed as expressing those views in an inappropriate forum.
“It was never my intention to bring the focus of intense media attention on Mr Wiley. I intend to contact him personally after I return from a trip overseas during this international break.
“I would wish it to be noted that I have always respected Mr Wiley’s integrity and that I did not state or imply:
· that Mr Wiley is a bad referee;
· that he was in any way biased;
· that decision-making generally during the game was poor, or
· that he missed any key incident during the game.
“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.” (Times Online)
All joking aside I am a little surprised that Sir Alex offered this apology mainly because I actually agreed with him on this one. The wider point he has made about the fitness of the referees in England is a valid one and I am all for lowering the age limit on officials on the pitch.
Obviously Ferguson was clever enough to realise that he was in danger of getting a serious touchline ban for this latest outburst and thought it prudent to backtrack which once again shows the infinite wisdom of the greatest manager of his generation.