Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has accepted a charge of improper conduct following his comments about the fitness of referee Alan Wiley.
Ferguson, who criticised Wiley following his team’s match with Sunderland on October 3, has requested a personal hearing. The date for that has yet to be decided by the Football Association.
The United boss, 67, faced calls for him to be given a lengthy touchline ban by the referees’ union Prospect as a consequence of the comments following the Premier League clash.
Ferguson said after the 2-2 draw at Old Trafford that 49-year-old Wiley was struggling to keep up with the match.
“I was disappointed with the referee,” Ferguson said. “He didn’t add on any time for the goal. He played four minutes and two seconds.
“He was also walking up the pitch for the second goal needing a rest. He was not fit enough for a game of that standard.
“The pace of the game demanded a referee who was fit. He was not fit. It is an indictment of our game.
“You see referees abroad who are as fit as butcher’s dogs. We have some who are fit. He wasn’t fit.
“He was taking 30 seconds to book a player. He was needing a rest. It was ridiculous.”
Although the Scot apologised for the comments on October 12, he was charged with improper conduct by the FA last week.
Ferguson claimed he was sorry “for any personal embarrassment that my remarks may have caused, and to the FA for going public with my views”.
He added: “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.”
However, former Premier League referee Jeff Winter does not sympathise with the Scot.
Winter told Sky Sports News: “If it’s a genuine regret that’s got to be accepted but Alan Wiley has had to endure taunts of ‘you’re not fit to referee’ from fans in each game since.
“Apologising doesn’t make it better. I thought it was a very weak apology but he’s got to face his punishment. I don’t think an apology is the end of it.”
Ferguson felt United’s Nemanja Vidic was unlucky to be red-carded in Sunday’s 2-0 defeat at Liverpool, that home defender Jamie Carragher should have been dismissed and Michael Carrick was denied a penalty.
And Winter continued: “Referees aren’t immune to comments but the ones this week are unwarranted and he (Ferguson) has not learned his lesson because he’s still doing it.
“It can’t be one rule for Sir Alex Ferguson and one for someone else – the punishment should be the same for managers and players.
“He shouldn’t be made a scapegoat and held up as a lesson to everyone else but he should be dealt with firmly and fairly.”
As for a possible punishment, Winter added: “A fine to someone with his earning capacity is nothing more than a slap on the wrist.
“It’s got to be a touchline ban or a European-style ban which prevents him attending matches for the duration of the ban.
“It’s almost a month since it happened and a hearing has yet to be set – goodness knows when it will be arranged.”
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