Unprofessional Foul


March 16, 2011

Sir Alex Ferguson’s Fair Use Defense

Only three more weeks until the next time I question the integrity of referees.

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson (I’m American, do I need to call him Sir?) intends to fight his improper conduct charge for comments regarding the referee of Manchester United’s 2-1 loss to Chelsea earlier this month. His defense is that he was saying the referee was not “strong” and not that the referee was not “fair.” A defense that, frankly, is just not fair…to those of us who have work through the twisted logic to gain a semblance of comprehension of the argument.

The offending quote as told to MUTV after the Chelsea match that has Ferguson stooping to Clintonian levels of interpretation and avoidance is as follows:

“You hope you will get a real strong ref in games like this. It was a major game for the club. You want a fair ref, you know, and you want a strong ref, anyway, and we didn’t get that.”

Ferguson apparently will argue that “we didn’t get that” refers only to wanting a “strong ref.”


First, the use of the conjunctive and not the disjunctive means that what Manchester United did not get was a strong and fair ref. Moreover, even if it was disjunctive, the “we didn’t get that” refers to and qualifies both independent clauses, so Manchester United received neither a fair ref nor a strong ref. Pretty much an indictment of the integrity of Martin Atkinson by the rosey-nosed bully.

Even if Ferguson was only referring to a “strong ref” that certainly does not put him in the clear. What exactly is a strong ref? Does it mean he wants an Ed Hochuli patrolling the field? Given SAF’s preference for referees that are as fit as a “butcher’s dog” you could argue that is what the manager meant.

However, much more likely, is that Ferguson meant a referee that was up to the moment and would not let the moment bend him. The magnitude of the match would not cause him to wilt under pressure of a home crowd. A referee whose ability and integrity could not be questioned like Sir Alex did after the Chelsea match.

It also turns out this is not the first time Ferguson has questioned the ability of Atkinson following a Chelsea match. In 2009, Ferguson questioned a call by Atkinson that resulted in a Chelsea goal calling it “absolutely ridiculous.” Ferguson escaped punishment because the FA said “he did not question the referee’s integrity or claim there was any bias.”

Seems Sir Alex has a bit of a pattern of conduct when it comes to losses to Chelsea when Atkinson is the official doesn’t it?

Regardless, Sir Alex’s defense is as strong as Wayne Rooney’s ability to resist visiting prostitutes. He clearly questioned the integrity of Atkinson which was the precedent the FA set two years ago. If the FA fails to punish him for his repeated flaunting of the institutions rules on comments regarding officiating it might as well cease handing out punishments for such comments and give Ryan Babel his money back.

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