Thompson says FA will ignore Blatter's criticism

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The Independent Online

The dispute between the Football Association, Fifa and Manchester United over the Rio Ferdinand affair was further inflamed yesterday when Geoff Thompson, the FA chairman, made a rare public comment.

Thompson, in Germany for the World Cup draw, said the FA would not be dictated to by the president of the world game's governing body, Sepp Blatter, who has criticised the slow pace of the inquiry. Blatter has said the defender should have been suspended as soon as he failed to take the test on 23 September. However, there was a thawing of relations between the FA and United after the club apologised for Alex Ferguson's claim that 'a deal' had been struck with Arsenal over the suspensions which followed the Old Trafford brawl of 21 September.

On Blatter suggesting he could increase any ban, threatening Ferdinand's place at Euro 2004, Thompson said: "I don't think there has ever been a case of Fifa stepping in. I wouldn't think that is possible, though they do have to ratify it. The disciplinary committee will deal with the facts and will not be influenced by anybody."

He added: "The principles of natural justice clearly indicate that people have a right to be heard. The regulations are clear. A process has to be followed. There is a period in which Ferdinand can appeal [if found guilty]. During that time he can play on. You don't just lock somebody without going through the process. I would hope the appeal board could then be set up quickly."

United's statement regarding the Old Trafford brawl read: "Manchester United have received assurances from the Football Association that there is no truth whatsoever in newspaper reports that the FA was involved in some kind of arrangement with Arsenal FC to agree the penalties for a number of Arsenal's players over the incident at Old Trafford on September 21.

"Both Manchester United and Sir Alex Ferguson accept such assurances unreservedly and express their regrets to the FA for any comments made by Sir Alex at his press conference on October 31 which may have appeared to have called into question the integrity of the FA's disciplinary process, or given credence to any suggestion of a lack of impartiality whether in relation to the Arsenal case or on any other occasion."

Thompson said: "It is what we would have expected. Deals aren't done. We are the governing body of the game and I'm very pleased to hear them acknowledge that."

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