United again: Sir Alex and BBC bury hatchet after seven-year feud
Ferguson began his boycott in 2004, when it was alleged in a BBC documentary that his son Jason, a football agent, had exploited his father's position for his own gain
Sir Alex Ferguson will once more be giving post-match interviews to Match of the Day after the Manchester United manager finally called off his seven-year feud with the BBC after a personal plea from the director-general.
Mark Thompson met Sir Alex to resolve a dispute which began with a BBC documentary in 2004 called Father and Son, in which it was alleged that the manager's son Jason, a football agent, had exploited his father's position to gain advantages in the transfer market. Sir Alex was outraged and began a boycott of BBC programmes in protest.
Yesterday both parties issued a joint statement. "Sir Alex and the BBC have put behind them the difficulties which led to Sir Alex feeling unable to appear on BBC programmes," it said. "The issues have been resolved to the satisfaction of both parties. Sir Alex will now make himself available to the BBC for Match of the Day, Radio 5 Live and other outlets as agreed."
Thompson persuaded Sir Alex to call off his boycott after a meeting that was also attended by Peter Salmon, the head of BBC North and a former head of BBC Sport. The director-general succeeded where several prominent football figures, who had previously tried to broker a truce, had failed.
The BBC's relationship with Sir Alex became particularly difficult when two other managers, Harry Redknapp and Sam Allardyce, also refused to give interviews to the corporation, after they were featured in a Panorama documentary that raised questions over football transfers.
Sir Alex stuck to his position despite incurring a Premier League fine every time he refused the BBC a post-match interview. In its turn, the BBC said it would never apologise for the 2004 programme.
The feud frequently led presenters of Match of the Day to comment on Sir Alex's absence. Gary Lineker, the former England striker, said last year that Manchester United fans were the "ones missing out". He added: "I get letters saying, 'We never hear from Sir Alex,' and I have to explain. It's something he feels very strongly about, so what can you do?"
In 2007, Sir Alex told an audience in Glasgow that he would never speak to the BBC again. "I think the BBC is the kind of company that never apologise and they never will apologise," he said. "They are arrogant beyond belief. I read Alastair Campbell's diaries recently and he's written a fantastic piece explaining the arrogance and their inability to apologise."
He then explained the reasons for his feud. "They did a story about my son that was a whole lot of nonsense. It was all made-up stuff and 'brown paper bags' and all that kind of carry-on. It was a horrible attack on my son's honour and he should never have been accused of that," he said. "But it is such a huge organisation that they will never apologise. They don't even care if you sue them or whatever, because they are so huge and have insurance. They carry on regardless and it's breathtaking."
So that's fine, Fergie
The Premier League has often been accused of being reluctant to take on the fiery Scotsman, but when in 2009 a rule was passed making it mandatory for club managers to speak to media rights holders, it was clear who the league had in mind.
The punishment for failing to comply was a sliding scale of fines, starting at the beginning of last season at £1,000 and potentially rising to £20,000 per refusal. Luckily for Ferguson he seems to have got off lightly: after 39 games without a single moment of Glaswegian drawl for Match of the Day or Radio 5 Live, he could now have paid out some £1,500,000. But a league spokesman confirmed that he hasn't been fined a penny. The BBC had requested the fines be delayed.
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