League rules out imposing ban on Ferguson over BBC boycott

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The Independent Football

The Premier League believes that any punishment must fit the crime where Sir Alex Ferguson's refusal to give interviews to the BBC is concerned and it has ruled out imposing a touchline ban for his continued breach of League rules.

The board will discuss the issue early next month, when the first move is likely to be the seeking out of United's "observations" on a problem first raised last season with chief executive David Gill, who asked for time to speak to Ferguson about it.

A decision will also be made whether to impose a set fine for each time Ferguson refuses to speak to the rights holders – in the same way, for instance, that a club who arrive for a match more than 15 minutes late are fined a flat £20,000 – or whether an incremental fine should be imposed. The League's desire for the issue to be kept in perspective is born of a philosophy that matters on the field of play are of far greater significance than media access after games. The BBC made its first indication this week that it does not believe it will win this particular battle in the foreseeable future.

United's surprise £7.4m summer signing Bebe made his first appearance for the club last night in the 4-1 reserve-team defeat by Aston Villa, playing 90 minutes two weeks after Ferguson insisted that his omission from the side to face Manchester City reserves stemmed from the need for a tailored programme of endurance work because his fitness was "nowhere near the levels we are at".

United also confirmed that Wednesday's surgery on Antonio Valencia had established that he suffered "significant ligament damage" as well as a fractured ankle against Rangers and said he would miss "a good portion of the season". A plate has been inserted to stabilise the fracture and Valencia is said now to be feeling "positive" about his recovery.