England's main man threatens commercial boycott

Click to follow

Wayne Rooney has assured the Football Association that there is no question of him boycotting England matches in his current dispute with the governing body over the three-match ban he received for a red card in a pre-season friendly. But a letter from the Manchester United striker's advisors to the FA has drawn the battle lines by threatening to withdraw him from FA commercial work in protest at the ban.

An awkward dispute for the FA chief executive, Brian Barwick, and new manager Steve McClaren came to a head yesterday when it emerged that Rooney's agent, Paul Stretford, had written to the FA to convey his client's "utter dismay" at his three-match ban. An independent FA panel charged Rooney with violent conduct for catching Porto's Pepe with an elbow in a friendly match in Amsterdam earlier this month - for which he was dismissed.

While Rooney may feel harshly treated, the wisdom of offering the FA an ultimatum is questionable. There is no doubt that the charge was harsh, or that, in David Beckham's absence, Rooney is England's most marketable name, but such grandstanding is unlikely to make him popular. After United's 5-1 defeat of Fulham yesterday, Rooney said: "Me and Paul Scholes [who received a three-match ban for a red card in the same friendly] are devastated at the ban, especially after the start we have made today, it is a big disappointment."

Rooney is understood to have had the backing of the Manchester United chief executive, David Gill, himself an FA councillor, to make his protest, while McClaren has complained that the panel's decision had "not made my job any easier". Rooney will miss United's next three matches as well as the next two England games for his World Cup red card against Portugal.

For Barwick it is a difficult situation. Strictly speaking, Rooney has not been punished by the FA, he has been disciplined by an independent panel appointed by the FA and consisting of its own, as yet unnamed, councillors. With the governing body sensitive to allegations that some of its elected officials are badly out of touch with the modern game, this poorly-judged decision has done nothing to help.

Whether Rooney makes the distinction between the FA and an independent panel appointed by the FA remains to be seen, but judging by the tone of his letter, it would suggest he has lost all patience. "How can he be expected to support a body that has manifestly not supported him?" Stretford's letter asked.

McClaren has also complained that in building relationships with clubs, he has suffered a serious setback. They are bold words from an England manager who has perhaps not yet come to appreciate the power of the FA's "blazers" who represent the county associations.