Ferguson vs the BBC: Round Two – fight
Today’s Daily Express says that Manchester United have confirmed Sir Alex Ferguson will refuse to talk to the BBC after Manchester United’s clash with Fulham tomorrow afternoon. This is despite new FA rules which state that clubs, not managers, will be fined on a sliding scale for refusing to give post-match interviews to national broadcasters.
Thus, theoretically, Manchester United will be fined at least 37 times from now until the end of the season due to a decision by Ferguson to stop talking to the BBC six years ago. However it is the club that will face the punishment, not the manager.
Ferguson took the unusual step of failing to talk to the BBC six years ago after a BBC documentary from 2004, Father and Son, which portrayed his agent son, Jason, as somebody who exploited his father’s influence and position to his own ends in the transfer market. Jason Ferguson was never found guilty of any wrongdoing but Sir Alex Ferguson claimed at the time he would never speak to the BBC again. To-date he has kept that promise.
He said (at the time): “I think the BBC is the kind of company that never apologise and they never will apologise. They are arrogant beyond belief. They did a story about my son that was whole lot of nonsense. It all made-up stuff and ‘brown paper bags’ and all that kind of carry-on. It was a horrible attack on my son’s honour and he should never have been accused of that.”
However this weekend the rules change and as part of an attempt to give further access to football stars by the FA, in a style befitting of American sport where players and managers are obliged to co-operate to a far greater degree, managers will be compelled to talk to the media after games and clubs will be fined on a sliding scale for each non-appearance.
The new rules could also force Ferguson to speak to the written press. For the last seven years he has been the only manager in the league to consistently refuse to talk to newspaper reporters after Premier League games, only giving interviews to Manchester United’s in-house television station MUTV. Under the new rules it is also mandatory for the manager or a senior member of the coaching staff to give a press conference.
Ferguson Vs the Man Utd fans
However the real question is this: how will Manchester United fans react to a situation where Ferguson is bringing fines on to the club despite the anti-Glazer protests amid fears the club is in financial turmoil?
Surely Alex Ferguson is the only manager in England who would believe it is his right to act as he pleases regardless of the consequences. Ferguson has complained in the past of being unfairly treated by the FA and yet here he is giving them every reason to come down hard on his every action or word.
The Manchester United fans are concerned that the owners are racking up enormous debts for the club while at the same time borrowing for personal gain against the club’s assets. Can Ferguson really continue to hold a grudge against the BBC and rack up dozens of fines for the club over a personal feud?
It is probably fair to say that Ferguson has every right to want to punish the BBC. How many of us could say we would settle at no further communication for a programme that attacked a member of our family? However Ferguson’s job is as a manager of a football club. He does an excellent job, will be remembered as the best coach in the history of the game, but he risks alienating himself from genuine Man Utd supporters of over his boycott.
It is also worth noting that in any media outlet, there is generally a very thick divide between sports and news. A Panorama investigation is unlikely to hold much sway with Match of the Day‘s production team, unless its reporters decide to make the (stupid) decision to ask those involved, for example Ferguson, Harry Redknapp or Sam Allardyce (all of whom featured in the programme). Therefore while Ferguson is boycotting the BBC for a news programme, he is denying football fans the chance to see a top manager and understand his selection and thought process.
Football chiefs and Manchester United fans would have every right to be concerned if Ferguson refuses the BBC’s microphone on Sunday evening. For football’s sake and for the fans, the top manager at the biggest club in the country should be forced in front of the reporters and those cameras. And if he refuses, at least make him pay the fine himself.