Sir Alex Ferguson yesterday accused the Premier League's head of referees Keith Hackett of favouring Chelsea after John Terry's red card was controversially rescinded to make the defender eligible for the league match against Manchester United on Sunday. Mark Halsey, the referee who awarded the card, has been banished to League Two as punishment.
Ferguson has a history of enmity with Hackett and accused him of pressurising Halsey into the decision – eventually the red card was overturned by a Football Association independent commission. "My information is that Hackett told Mark Halsey to rescind the red card and he would not do it," said Ferguson. "Now I understand that Halsey is being made to referee in League Two this weekend. I just don't understand how this could have happened. If it had been a Manchester United player, Hackett would never have done this for us."
As Ferguson set the stage for his first public clash with Scolari, the Chelsea manager, whose side beat Bordeaux 4-0 in the Champions League last night, said that he was "surprised, but satisfied" that in England the referee was not treated like "God". Although it had to be explained to Scolari that it was an FA commission who had overturned the decision rather than Halsey himself, he, unsurprisingly, welcomed the decision.
"It's the first time that, as a coach, I have experienced a changed of resolution from the referee," he said. "That would only happen in England. Anywhere else, it's finished. But the referee saw the video and admitted he'd made a mistake. It's a surprise, but a positive surprise. It's positive for football. The Football Association have their men who understand that the referee is not God. They make mistakes sometimes, like I do, like you do and the players. It's important to say this."
Halsey now has the ignominy of refereeing Chester City against Shrewsbury Town on Sunday.
It is the second time in seven months that Chelsea, who are serial appealers in the disciplinary process, have successfully had a red card rescinded. Last season the FA received nine appeals from clubs against red cards in the Premier League: of those nine, four came from Chelsea.
Frank Lampard's red card against West Ham in March was successfully overturned although the other three were rejected. Lee Bowyer was the only other player to have a red card – against Birmingham City in February – rescinded.
The red card for Terry against Manchester City had been widely criticised but it is still relatively rare for the FA to overturn an official's decision – across the four divisions fewer than a third of red cards are rescinded.
Halsey had claimed in his match report that Terry was guilty of "serious foul play" – one of the seven triggers for a red card enshrined in the laws – but the independent commission decided that his rugby tackle-style block on City striker Jo did not constitute that offence. The initial reaction was that Halsey had given the red card because he believed Terry had "denied an obvious goalscoring opportunity" but it emerged on Sunday that it was "serious foul play" that the official would give as his reasoning for the decision.
When reviewing the tapes the independent commission decided that the normal criterion for that decision – a tackle likely to injure an opponent seriously – had not been met.
The FA will not name the individuals on the independent commission who are appointed by the governing body but whose function is to operate as an impartial jury. They did not hear submissions from either Chelsea or the FA on Terry's conduct, they read Halsey's report and decided whether the decision was correct on the basis of replays of the incident that took place at the City of Manchester stadium on Saturday.
Chelsea's record in appealing against red cards is more prolific than any other club in the Premier League. Last season they appealed against red cards
for John Obi Mikel, Michael Essien, Ashley Cole and Lampard. On top of that they also appealed a red card given to Wayne Bridge in a reserve game against Fulham last October. All but the Lampard dismissal were upheld by the FA. There were only five other appeals in the whole league, plus one from Tottenham for a red card to Didier Zokora in the Carling Cup.
Playing the percentages is clearly working for Chelsea and the decision to overturn Terry's ban will be difficult for Ferguson to accept given that Nemanja Vidic's dismissal against Liverpool for two yellows was debatable at best. Only straight red cards can be appealed. The decision by the FA suggested that the spectre of games being re-refereed by video replay is a reality now.
Chelsea have spent more time in front of the FA's disciplinary authorities than any other club over the past 12 months, although it has occasionally proved profitable. Last season they were also hit with two charges of failing to control their players – against Derby County and Manchester United – and were fined a total of £70,000. In addition, their former assistant manager Steve Clarke was also fined £5,000 for his behaviour during the United game in September.
Red List: Dismissals appealed last season
Frank Lampard, Chelsea v West Ham United; PL, 1 March 2008. Violent conduct Result: Appeal upheld.
Jérémie Aliadière, Middlesbrough v Liverpool; PL, 23 February 2008. Violent conduct. Result: Appeal rejected.
Lee Bowyer, West Ham v Birmingham City; PL, 9 February 2008. Serious foul play. Result: Appeal upheld.
Zat Knight, Aston Villa v Chelsea; PL, 26 December 2007. Denial of goal scoring opportunity Result: Appeal rejected.
Ashley Cole, Chelsea v Aston Villa; PL, 26 December 2007. Denial of goalscoring opportunity Result: Appeal rejected.
Didier Zokora, Tottenham v Manchester City; Carling Cup, 18 December 2007. Serious foul play. Result: Appeal rejected.
Robbie Keane, Tottenham v Birmingham City; PL, 2 December 2007. Serious foul play. Result: Appeal rejected.
Michael Essien, Chelsea v Derby County; PL, 24 November 2007. Violent conduct. Result: Appeal rejected.
Wayne Bridge, Chelsea v Fulham Reserves; 2 October 2007. Serious foul play. Result: Appeal rejected.
John Obi Mikel, Chelsea v Manchester United; PL, 23 September 2007. Serious foul play Result: Appeal rejected.
Craig Fagan, Derby v Liverpool, PL, 1 September 2007 Violent conduct Result: Appeal upheld.