Red card Ferguson tirades

MORRIS DALLA COSTA, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:11 AM ET

It is becoming tiresome, repetitive and predictable.

Alex Ferguson's continued rantings against the refereeing, when it doesn't go in his favour, will be taken as the tantrums of a man who can't accept his or his club's shortcomings and needs something else to blame.

But how much damage can he do before that happens?

What's disappointing is not so much Ferguson has become predictable and a caricature of a grumpy old man, but he's allowed to get away with it.

His stature and knighthood have not earned him a free pass.

The Manchester United manager received a two-match touchline ban this week for his comments about referee Alan Wiley. Ferguson questioned Wiley's fitness level after United's surprise 2-2 draw with Sunderland.

The English FA fined Ferguson 20,000 pounds, handed him the suspension and tossed in an additional two-game ban should Ferguson be found guilty of a similar infringement before the end of the 2010-11 season.

Weeks after the incident with Wiley, Ferguson was at it again. He criticized referee Martin Atkinson following United's defeat by Chelsea on Sunday.

Ferguson condemned the decision to award a free kick that led to the winning goal as "absolutely ridiculous" and said he is losing his faith in refereeing.

Somehow the Football Association felt that fell within the boundaries of acceptable criticism.

Ferguson focused on the referee's decision that led to the goal. We could point out his team was unable to score a goal, but what would be the point. It seems Ferguson never loses unless the refereeing is against him.

If this type of criticism were unique, it would be understandable Ferguson would escape more severe punishment. But Ferguson has a history.

In the 2007-08 season, he was given a two-match touchline ban and fined 5,000 pounds for his criticism of referee Mark Clattenburg during a match at Bolton. Last year, he was banned for two games and fined 10,000 pounds for actions against referee Mike Dean in a match against Hull.

Even though Ferguson intimidates the heck out of everyone, it has to stop. Or if he won't stop, he has to pay a more severe price than what he's paying now.

A touchline ban merely means he'll be watching the game and orchestrating movement from a more comfortable seat. A real punishment is a stadium ban. No access to the stadium on the day of the match.

And never mind handing him a two-game suspension that is dependent on his contact. Make him serve the full four games with the acknowledgement that this is an escalating punishment. Four games for this incident, six games for the next incident and so it goes until it stops.

Even Ferguson would get the message then.

Ferguson's constant berating of officials for their handling of the game is a snapshot of a game that has little respect for officials. As a so-called leader in the game of football, what Ferguson does resonates throughout the game. If Sir Alex is critical, then obviously there must be something wrong. If he doesn't respect officials, then why should any of the players not matter at what age or level?

Those who administer the game give managers and players far too much leeway when it comes to how poorly they treat officials, especially on the pitch. While they claim to want to foster an atmosphere of respect, their actions and response to what officials are subjected to allows disrespect to blossom.

And Ferguson is the poster boy for that.

morris.dallacosta@sunmedia.ca


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