The Fulham chairman, Mohamed Al-Fayed, last night launched a scathing attack on the standard of referees in the Premier League and accused officials of being "all too easily influenced" by the "more powerful clubs and individual owners".
Fayed called for an "immediate review" of refereeing practices claiming that the Premier League needs to "wake up". The irony may be lost on the 79-year-old but his remarks, which call into question the integrity of officials, could earn him a Football Association charge for bringing the game into disrepute. As a chairman of a football club, he is bound by the rules of the FA.
It was the failure of referee Michael Oliver to award a penalty to Fulham at Old Trafford 17 days ago that Fayed said prompted him to speak out about the FA and the League. Even Sir Alex Ferguson admitted that Oliver should have given a penalty for a foul on Danny Murphy in the loss to Manchester United.
That foul was almost identical to the incident between Ashley Young and Shaun Derry for which referee Lee Mason awarded a penalty against Queen's Park Rangers on Sunday at Old Trafford. The decision to send off Shaun Derry – and quash his appeal – is one of a number of contentious incidents in recent days.
Fayed said: "The FA's problem in addressing this pivotal situation is that it has too much power. Where else can decision-makers [referees] escape all responsibility to admit serious and blatant errors and have the protesters [the football clubs] fined on charges of misconduct? The losses that we incur from such careless decisions can have calamitous consequences. Referees are too easily influenced by the more powerful clubs and individual owners which calls into question the integrity of both them, and the governing body they report to.
"It is time for the Premier League to wake up. They have been in a coma for a long time. Lots of clubs are suffering from such stupid decisions. Technology is available and it is used in other sports. Once again I call for action to review the standard of officials, and the transparency of the processes by which referees are allocated to games."
The Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger believes an FA committee should be set up to prevent anomalies such as Derry's appeal failing – because no matter how little contact he made with Young he was still deemed to have fouled the midfielder – while Mario Balotelli's studs-up challenge on Arsenal's Alex Song will not incur a ban because at least one of the four match officials – though not the one on the pitch – saw it.
"Put those two together and it looks unbelievable," he said. "It doesn't make common sense that one is suspended and the other isn't. The FA should look at the situation and amend it."