DES KELLY: Hounding Sir Alex Ferguson is an awful Prospect

14 November 2009 03:28
Our referees certainly chose the right name when they decided to throw themselves in with a union called 'Prospect'.

According to the nearest dictionary, this horrible corporate brand name is associated with various meanings, including: 'advancement or success for profit', 'a likely customer', 'a scene', and 'to mine or explore a region for gold'.

Right on all counts. The union chief Alan Leighton struck publicity gold when Sir Alex Ferguson (wrongly) accused one official of being a bit too porky for Premier League action.

Enlarge Enough: Ferguson's spat with Wiley should be history

And despite private and public apologies and FA punishment, the union boss still continues to mine that rich seam of notoriety for all its worth, ensuring Ferguson gets a good panning along the way.

Leighton, give it a rest. Referees, get over yourselves.

Ferguson said something that was not only wrong, but very publicly proved to be so.

When Prozone's figures revealed that Alan Wiley, this supposedly unfitmatch official, had actually covered more ground than all but four ofthe United players, Ferguson's argument was blown out of the water.

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For his outburst (to the media in a post-match interview, remember) the Old Trafford boss was fined £20,000 and banned from the touchline for four games, with two suspended until the summer of 2011.

That, you might think, should be the end of it. After all, Ferguson didn't call the official a cheat, as many bosses have in the past.

He didn't accuse the referee of blatant bias or of being 'The 12th Man', as one notable player did this week. He didn't say the official was somehow visually impaired, like Rafa Benitez or Neil Warnock have this season.

He moaned about the referee not having enough puff. Big deal. It might have been churlish, it was obviously wrong in this instance, and it was right that he faced the consequences.

But referees are always seeking consistency and the punishment he received was absolutely in line with the 'crime'.

The FA kept a sensible head, while all around them appear to be losing theirs. None of this was enough for Leighton, of course. He wanted more.

He broadcast that Wiley might consider taking legal action against Ferguson, which was a preposterous thought.

Any move in that direction would immediate mark the end of the official's career, since he would be potentially compromised with every match decision he made.

But Leighton obviously knows a good prospect when he sees one. Come on. Confess. Who among you had heard of 'Prospect' before this?

Judged on that basis Leighton has done a job for himself and his union's notoriety.

But now the initial exchanges are over and Wiley's honour has been defended, I wonder if the referee at the centre of it all welcomes his continued status as a cause celebre?

It's the hypocrisy I can't stand. The sound of managers griping about officials is downright tedious. It's too obvious a ploy to divert attention from their own shortcomings and promptly dump them instead on a convenient scapegoat.

Some managers can express those complaints with style and a modicum of respect, some can't and they usually pay for it.

But would I ban them from offering a critical opinion?

Here's the deal. I'll sign up to a complete moratorium on comments about officials when the media also stops criticising referees.

How can commentators moan about Ferguson and then do exactly the same week in and week out, often in slow motion, or across acres of newsprint?

I'll sign up to a ban when all those fans chanting abuse from the stands, or routinely clogging the airwaves and internet forums with their moans about officialdom put a sock in it.

And I'll campaign for a gag on all managers when ex-referees who spent their career complaining about all the pressure and undue scrutiny piled up on them conquer the urge to run straight to the media as soon as they hand in their whistle to inflict the same misery on their successors.

But as you and I and Mr Leighton know too well, there's not much prospect of that, is there?

 Whoever came up with the term 'Crown Jewels' to describe the key sports events to be kept live on free-to-air* terrestrial television must have been making a joke.

Just try popping down to the Tower of London and demanding to see the actual Crown Jewels free of charge?

Crown Jewel: The Ashes contest could be back on free-to-air-television

A grumpy Beefeaterwill set the ravens on you. Entry to view the Her Majesty's Royalbaubles costs £17.00, even though they are supposedly 'ours'.

Sowhy are sport's jewels any different? Satellite broadcasters want tobelieve that the Ashes, Wimbledon and international football qualifiers- along with the World Cup, FA Cup final and the Olympics - shouldbelong to the highest bidder.

But it's not a simple case of market forces. Huge sporting events unite the country like nothing else. They belong to all of us.

Outside the confines of sport, communal moments of joy are practically non-existent. And for sport to thrive and inspire future generations, everyone deserves the chance to share in that.

Cricket chiefs are already complaining that they will see a drastic drop in revenue if they lose the satellite shilling. Scottish football bosses are moaning about money, too. Their argument was essentially the same.

Sod the public, we want the cash.

Surely in the long term, exposure and the increased interest that follows is potentially a bigger prize?

It's why Bernie Ecclestone, sport's arch-profiteer, keeps the Formula One circus on mainstream TV. He knows its worth.

Sky and now ESPN do a superb job, so much so that we often take Keys, Shreeves, Tyler and Gray; Champion, Keegan and Stubbs (recited to the tune of the Trumpton fire brigade roll call) for granted.

But the satellite sports channels essentially cater to a dedicated viewer, someone who will even watch the Johnstone's Paint Trophy matches on a quiet week, ahem. They do not offer the best chance to create new fans or lure in the uncommitted.

It is right then, that they let the occasional baubles go elsewhere. Maximum exposure creates new sportsmen and women and new sports subscribers too. It's in everybody's interests that this happens.

(* The BBC is only 'free' on the basis that you have to pay your licence fee regardless).

 There are a number of urban myths that have taken hold: eating carrots improves night vision (it doesn't); a duck's quack has no echo (it does) and Katie Price is a model (you've got to be kidding me).

Readers have been emailing in peddling another fiction that needs to be debunked. It's the idea that the title of baseball's World Series isn't an empty American boast as I said last week, but the remnant of an old sponsorship deal with a US newspaper called 'The World'.

Enlarge Victorious: New York Yankees players celebrate their World Series success

I'm afraid it's not true. Records dating all the way back to the 1880s demonstrate that the baseball contest was called the World Championship Series pretty much from the start.

The name was chosen on the assumption that nobody outside the USA played baseball to the same standard and that Great Britain and Australia would participate at some future date.

But the 'World' bit stuck and when the New York Yankees beat Philadelphia last week they were immediately crowned 'World Champions'. So it's time to stop peddling that alternative theory down the local. And yes, that includes you, Alan Brazil of TalkSPORT.

 Whenever sports equipment makers trumpet some amazing new technologicalbreakthrough, they remind me of those hateful shampoo ads that makedubious claims about how ingredients like Regenium XY, Nutri-Ceramideor Bolonium Four X 'have changed hair washing for ever'.

Footballmanufacturers employ similar hype, boasting their products haverevolutionised the game with balls made of a 'PSC-Texture','micro-texture layering' or a '26-panelled textured grain surface'.

That's a lot of texture. Not even Davina manages to find that with her Garnier Nutrisse.

Sowhen Emiliano Insua's shot dipped under the bar during Liverpool'srecent Carling Cup defeat at Arsenal some marketing bod at Mitredecided to issue a press release claiming a slice of the credit.

'Theball was struck,' he explained, 'to give side-spin and make the ballbend left, below the centre of gravity to make the ball rise and,finally, with top spin to make it dip.'

Understood that? No, me neither.

I'massuming he was trying to say Insua walloped it and the goalkeeperhadn't the faintest idea where the ball was going because they makethem so light these days they zig-zag about like a balloon. A texturedballoon, of course.

 Ambassador: David Beckham

The World Cup bid is in crisis, but have no fear. Our celebrity ambassador David Beckham will save the day. Jet lag being what it is, I caught live coverage of the MLS match between Chivas and LA Galaxy the other day.

Some time before dawn, Beckham was hauled before the ESPN microphone to share his thoughts.

He spoke for 42 seconds (I timed it) but, in what has to be a record, he managed to cram in 13 'y'knows'.

Here's a snippet: 'They played great soccer, erm y'know and y'know, commiserations to them but we're happy with this. Y'know, we're not going to get too excited, we're happy to get through, y'know.'

I would go on, but y'know the rest.

 England captain John Terry is on the cover of the latest edition of Angler's Mail clutching a large fish.

Apparently the Chelsea defender enjoys it when his family throw out a line. Although this might not be the best week to point that out.

 Explore more:People:Katie Price, Rafa Benitez, Neil Warnock, Alex Ferguson, Bernie Ecclestone, David Beckham, John TerryPlaces:Liverpool, London, United Kingdom, Australia, Tower of London

Source: Daily_Mail

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