So a football manager announced his retirement this week.
Not just any football manager mind. Alex Ferguson, the manager of one of the biggest and most famous football clubs in the world. A man who has ruled English football with an Iron Fist for the past 2 decades or so. A man whose political connections are so far reaching, he was awarded a knighthood after helping out Tony Blair win his first prime ministerial elections.
This knight of the realm will, for the rest of his lifetime, be remembered as the greatest football manager in the history of football. What happens after he passes away though, no-one really knows. In England, your achievements are safe until you die. After that, all gloves are off.
The fact of the matter is that Ferguson has achieved so much during his 27 year tenure at Manchester United, that he deserves all the accolades he gets. What is also an undeniable fact though, is that so much of his success has been accompanied by the ugly stench of what Man United fans call coincidences and the rest of the world calls corruption.
From Ferguson’s first Premier League trophy at United when more than 7 minutes of injury time allowed his team to score 2 goals to set them up for the 1992/93 title. To his last one, where his team did not concede a penalty ALL SEASON (not a single one in fact since October 2011) and did not have a man sent off until well after they wrapped up the league; United’s success have left a lot of football fans scratching their heads.
Ferguson has won 13 English league titles. And just 2 European Cups. The same as Juventus who are the most storied club in Italy. And much like Juventus, many question why United’s domestic dominance did not translate into a European one.
Maybe the simple explanation is that without English referees, United could not translate their dominance into Europe. After all, ask yourself this: would an English ref have dared send Nani off at Old Trafford against Real Madrid?
It’s no “coincidence” that the term “Fergie Time” has entered the football lexicon, a common an expression as any in English football. It’s no coincidence that gambling websites offered punters the chances to bet on Howard Webb becoming Fergie’s replacement at United (4 people actually put money on this!).
It’s no coincidence that Ferguson exits as he ruled: with the tongues of so many journalists wedged so far up his bottom that a sudden outbreak of Cherry Bosom poisoning on Fleet Street would not come as a surprise.
These journalists have been as complicit as anyone in allowing Ferguson an unhealthy amount of power in the English game .For example, Daniel Taylor of the Guardian wrote an article entitled “The Eulogy, the Apology, the Thank You”.
This is a man, like many others, who Ferguson has banned from Old Trafford for years. It did not stop all of them falling over each other to get down on their knees and bow to the “Great Man”.
The sycophancy of the press corps during this last week has been vomit inducing and completely unsurprising. In many ways, its akin to the North Korean’s media reaction to Kim Jong Il’s death.
Not a single article raised the fact of how powerful Ferguson was, or the unhealthy relationship which exists between his club and the Football Association. Not a single article highlighted the abuses of power, the bullying and the double standards that were such a fixture of Ferguson’s reign.
And as for the issue of the refereeing selection process and the strange “coincidences” involving Manchester United... forget about it. The media do not want to research, report of highlight this matter.
And not a single one highlighted a key fact: Ferguson has certainly left his club in very good hands. The new FA Chairman, Greg Dyke, is an ex Man United director. The FA Vice chairman is David Gill, current United CEO and future Board member (like a certain Mr. Ferguson). And the new Premier League chairman, Anthony Fry, is a self confessed United fan.
Taken individually, there is nothing wrong with that. The current FA Chairman has links to Man City while other heads of the FA have had links to football clubs.
But at no stage in history (anywhere in the world I imagine), has a club held all 3 powerful positions as strongly inside the country’s football institutions. That this has been allowed, without comment, to happen is the final nail in English football’s media “fair and balanced” reporting.
Ferguson leaving has to teach English football lessons. English football needs to put measures in place to ensure that the years of abuse of power that have formed Ferguson’s reign never happen again:
Never again should a football manager have so much power within the game, to the point where he has his key allies in positions of power inside the country’s football institutions
Never again should a football manager be allowed to abuse the system
Never again should a football manager have his colleagues punish other clubs for firing his son
Never again should a football manager be allowed to bully referees without punishment
Never again should a football manager be allowed to build political connections while working in the game
Never again should a football manager be allowed to ban and bully reporters at a whim
Never again should a football manager be allowed to tamper with the refereeing selection process
Never again should a football manager be allowed to go years without fulfilling his media obligations, with no punishment
Never again should a football manager be allowed to ban referees from taking charge of this team (ask Graham Poll or Jeff Winter)
Never again should a football manager force his players to use his son as an agent, and threaten punishment if they don’t
I suggest that the ideal person to take the first step is the new Manchester United manager, David Moyes.
After all, in 2009, Moyes, as Everton manager, demanded the FA investigate Mike Riley. Moyes wanted to ascertain whether Riley was a United fan, such was his bias while refereeing United games.
The investigation never came. Instead, Riley retired and then became the head of the PGMOB; the group responsible for assigning games to referees. He’s the man who decides who referees Man United games.
Over to you Davey.