BBC losing boycott battle with Ferguson

The BBC appears to have concluded that it will not be able to persuade Sir Alex Ferguson to fulfill his contractual obligation to provide post-match interviews, despite the Premier League's threat of fines.

The controller of Radio 5 Live, Adrian Van Klaveren, said yesterday that he couldn't see the position with Ferguson changing in the immediate future. "I hope it does but I can't see it happening," he said. The Premier League will discuss the issue at its board meeting early next month but with the United manager set against ending his six-year boycott of the Corporation and with United seemingly ready to pay a sliding scale of fines, it is difficult to see how the BBC can take the issue any further.

Ferguson's estimated personal worth has been put at around £22m so it would take a substantial level of punishment to change the perspective of the 68-year-old Scot who is understood to want an apology for the BBC Three programme broadcast in 2004, which made allegations about his son, Jason, taking advantage of his father's influence while working as a football agent.

Interviewed by Victoria Derbyshire for her Five Live programme, Mr Van Klaveren said he had ensured that approaches to the United manager were made through intermediaries. "I have made sure that efforts are taking place [to persuade Ferguson] through people who know him," he said. "Those have been going on in recent months in order to persuade him [and] it would be good to share his thoughts with our listeners.

"We know how many of our listeners really care about Manchester United. [But] he has made his decision and is standing by it. It's very hard to make somebody do something [even] when there are a certain level of sanctions. I recognise the position [the Premier League] are in."

The Premier League board will discuss the level of the first fine, with the amount set to rise every week that Ferguson continues to ignore the different "Match of the Day" shows and Radio 5 Live. The BBC has not commented on Ferguson's conduct but Gary Lineker, the "Match of the Day" host, has already expressed his belief that it would be "the amount of the fine" which will make Ferguson's mind up about whether to participate in interviews.

Ferguson has previously been immune to any punishment because of a rights regime which requested that managers talk to the broadcast rights-holders under a "best endeavours" clause. The idea of tightening up the rules was specifically devised to tackle Ferguson and was voted in by all 20 Premier League clubs, including Manchester United.

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