Belfast Telegraph

Sir Alex Ferguson for stands as FA deliver ban for referee rant

By Sam Wallace

Sir Alex Ferguson will be forced to watch much of Manchester United's Premier League run-in and their FA Cup semi-final against Manchester City from the stands after the Football Association hit him with an uncompromising five-match touchline ban for his accusations of bias against referee Martin Atkinson.



The United manager, who was also fined £30,000, was given a three-match ban for accusing Atkinson of lacking fairness in his refereeing of United's 2-1 defeat to Chelsea on 1 March.

But the commission also invoked a suspended two-match ban dating back to October 2009 to bump the punishment up to five games.

Ferguson was described as calm at yesterday's hearing in the Midlands — the location of which the FA were not prepared to disclose — which he attended with his |barrister.

The United manager will wait until he receives the written reasons for the commission's decision, due before the end of today, before he decides whether to appeal. He has 48 hours from receipt of the commission's report to decide.

Privately United are disbelieving that Ferguson could get a touchine ban for his comments about Atkinson when Spurs manager Harry Redknapp was only warned over his criticism of referee Mark Clattenburg at Old Trafford in |October.

Then Redknapp claimed that Clattenburg and his assistants would collude to get their stories straight over Luis Nani's controversial goal and threatened a media boycott if he was charged.

Should Ferguson opt for an appeal he would risk an increased ban if his case was deemed to be frivolous.

As it stands, after Saturday's visit of Bolton Wanderers to Old Trafford, Ferguson will not be seen in the dugout for a domestic United game until the visit of Chelsea to Old Trafford on May 7.

Following the Bolton game, Ferguson will have to sit in the stand for the games against West Ham (away), Fulham (home), the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley against City, Everton (home) and the key Premier League fixture against Arsenal at the Emirates on May 1.

However, there is a chance that the 69-year-old will be back in his place for the game against Arsenal if the Premier League re-schedule United's away game against Newcastle United in the free week from 16 to 23 April.

The FA would not disclose the identities of the four-man commission.

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