United boss Ferguson gets touchline ban after ref comments
Sir Alex Ferguson was today handed a four-match touchline ban for his comments about referee Alan Wiley after Manchester United's 2-2 draw against Sunderland.
Two of the matches will be suspended until the end of next season, while United boss Ferguson was also given a £20,000 fine by an FA regularity commission for suggesting Wiley was "just wasn't fit enough" to officiate in the Barclays Premier League after last month's game.
Peter Griffiths QC, who chaired the commission, said: "Each member of the commission recognised Sir Alex Ferguson's achievements and stature within the game.
"Having said that, it was made clear to Sir Alex that with such stature comes increased responsibilities.
"The commission considered his admitted remarks, in the context in which they were made, were not just improper but were grossly improper and wholly inappropriate.
"He should never have said what he did say."
The additional two-match ban will be activated if Ferguson is found guilty of a similar offence before the end of next season.
Ferguson had admitted the charge of improper conduct and apologised to Wiley in the wake of strong opinion his comments had served to undermine the FA's 'Respect' campaign.
However, the Scot maintained his assertion that the fitness of referees in the Premier League remained an issue to be discussed.
"I apologise to Mr Wiley for any personal embarrassment that my remarks may have caused and to the FA for going public with my views," Ferguson said at the time via the club's website.
"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."
Ferguson continued to be outspoken in his comments about referees even after attracting the FA charge.
Following his side's 2-0 defeat to Liverpool last month, Ferguson questioned whether Andre Marriner, who took charge of the game at Anfield, had the required experience for a match of such significance.
He also accused Martin Atkinson of being in an "absolutely ridiculous" position when he awarded Chelsea the free-kick that led to their winner against United at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.