Football: The Sweeper - Mr Bean silent in FA's Edwards farce

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The Independent Online
MR BEAN, the Football Association's enforcer, has been as outspoken as his non-talking television namesake recently, not least on a potential disrepute charge against Manchester United's chairman Martin Edwards.

Those with long enough memories will recall that referee David Elleray awarded Liverpool a penalty and sent off United's Denis Irwin when the two sides met on 5 May. The match finished 2-2, giving Arsenal an advantage in the title chase and Edwards said: "If Arsenal or Chelsea win the Premiership this season by either one or two points, I trust they will strike a special commemorative medal for Mr Elleray, because he will have done it for them." The FA said it would investigate the comments, which were a slur on Elleray's impartiality.

In June, a senior member of the FA establishment voiced concern to the Independent that progress was slow on the matter. An enquiry to the FA was met with the response: "It's being dealt with." A source close to Graham Bean told the Independent at the time that Bean thought a suitable course of action would be a formal warning letter to Edwards about his conduct. Bean then went on holiday. The FA said matters would be resolved when he returned.

Last month, during the height of the furore surrounding United's withdrawal from the FA Cup, the Independent again asked the FA when a decision on Edwards would be announced. Bean was away again, the FA said, but added that the enforcer did not necessarily need to be around for a decision to be made. "Within two days, a week at most," the FA said of a decision. That was a month ago.

After further disquiet from a senior FA figure over the delay, the Independent again asked the FA what was happening. "Martin Edwards is on tour with his club and it would not be appropriate to say anything until he returns." That was three weeks ago.

The Independent asked to be put in touch with Elleray for his opinion on his besmirched reputation. "He is only contactable via us," said the FA, and a request for his opinion went unanswered. The Premier League said its referees' spokesman, Philip Don, was only contactable through them, but it was an FA matter anyway. The FA said it was being dealt with.

The Independent asked the FA this week whether the matter will be resolved before the start of the new season. "Martin Edwards is due to meet with Graham Bean within a week to discuss the situation," the FA said. Let us hope so. Either Elleray made a terrible error or Edwards was out of line. Which will it be? And will we ever find out why the matter took so long to resolve?

Was any sort of deal done with Edwards in return for his assistance in sending United to the World Club Championship in Brazil? Absolutely not, said the FA's David Davies.

Is it, then, just a case of new FA, old procrastination? We wait with baited breath.

SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY'S new Belgian striker, Gilles de Bilde, has a troubled disciplinary past, which the club's travelling band have quickly latched on to. Every time he touches the ball, they strike up the theme from Men Behaving Badly.

DELOITTE & TOUCHE, the company that produces football's annual finance review, make much every year of the salary spiral. The Sweeper is more interested in the name-check spiral racked up by Deloitte's chief football man, Gerry Boon, who supports Oldham and insists on calling the game soccer. In a database search of national newspapers for 1993, Boon's name fails to appear. In 1994, it turns up 10 times, and by 1998 the frequency has increased a further 150 per cent. "Deloitte & Touche" appeared 194 times in the sports pages in 1996, rising to 330 times last year. Not bad for a company that persists in saying that football is in imminent danger of meltdown despite the fact that not a single club has gone bust since it started its doom-mongering.

ASDA SUPERMARKETS set out to win the hearts of "football widows" today by offering discounts on hairdressing and refreshments at 20 stores around the country between 3pm and 5pm. A press release from the company says: "This move is set to offer home alone widows an afternoon of their own, as husbands, partners and boyfriends head back to their favourite teams." For Posh Spice's future reference, her nearest branch is at the Trafford Park shopping centre. What The Sweeper really wanted to know was whether football widowers also qualify for a cut-price perm and a cuppa when their wives, partners and girlfriends are at the footy. "Of course, we wouldn't dream of being so sexist as to make it just for women," said an Asda spokeswoman. Phew.

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