Sam Hammam , the Wimbledon owner, yesterday backed the club's manager -"sent off" during Tuesday's Premiership match against Manchester United -and claimed that Joe Kinnear's "crusade" against "diabolical" refereeing is supported by most Premier League managers.
Kinnear, already facing a Football Association inquiry after an incident at Newcastle, could find himself in deeper trouble after the incident at Selhurst Park. He confronted the Darlington official, Robbie Hart, on the pitch and faces another touchline ban. "We do expect a disrepute charge on Joe Kinnear and I do have some concern that he will suffer in one way or another. We will deal with it in the best way that we can," Hammam said.
"We have to look at the positive side of what Joe is trying to achieve; it's in the long-term interests of football and referees. The real problem is not Joe Kinnear, but consistency of refereeing and the quality of officials.
"I can't remember a manager who hasn't complained, including highly respected people like Kenny Dalglish and Joe Royle. If Joe Kinnear is put on trial then what will really be on trial is the FA and the consistency of referees."
Kinnear was outraged when the Wimbledon defender Alan Kimble was sent off for failing to retreat 10 yards from a Manchester United corner, his second bookable offence of the game. The manager's anger boiled over five minutes later when Steve Bruce scored the only goal.
Kimble said yesterday that he intended challenging the referee's decision. "I was exactly yards away when Ryan Giggs took the corner. There is a line that marks the 10-yard distance from the corner flag and I was standing on it. It was a joke decision."
Hammam called for referees to be accountable. "The FA have the power to silence Joe completely, but I think they want people like Joe Kinnear who is trying to help referees. Joe's style highlights the problems, and his crusade will eventually make referees better."
Kinnear promised to continue his outspoken stand against "injustices in the game".
"This was typical of the diabolical standards we have been suffering all season and Robbie Hart is one of the worst referees in the League in my opinion," Kinnear said. "Time and again we've produced video evidence to show referees have made mistakes, but it is never acknowledged and we don't get back the goals and points we have lost."
Kinnear found himself in trouble at St James' Park in January when he said the referee Mike Reed had "cheated" after disallowing a last-minute equaliser.
"We have spoken to a number of managers who have shown sympathy. Everybody is afraid to antagonise referees and the FA, but someone needs to speak up," Hammam urged.
Hammam was also involved in a confrontation with the referee on Tuesday. "I was pleading with him, but I never complained to him about the decision and I didn't argue with him. He was asking me to calm Joe down."
The FA has received a report from its observer at the match. "We are now awaiting the referee's report before deciding what action, if any, to take", said an FA spokesman, Mike Parry.