Ferguson told to end BBC boycott

Premier League rules will force manager to call off cold war from next season

Robin Scott-Elliot@RobinScottEllio
Saturday 27 February 2010 01:00

It is six years since Sir Alex Ferguson last spoke regularly to the BBC and three years since he described them as "arrogant beyond belief", but from next season the Manchester United manager will have to renew acquaintances with the corporation after the Premier League underlined its determination to hold its members to a new agreement on giving interviews to rights holders.

At the last AGM, before the start of this season, the clubs voted in favour of managers being obliged to be made available to talk to television and radio and if they fail to comply the Premier League are willing to penalise offenders, enforcing the regulation with financial penalties if need be. A first offence would be followed by a warning with further breaches incurring a fine of increasing magnitude.

Harry Redknapp and Sam Allardyce have also boycotted the BBC in the past, but nothing to match Ferguson's sustained fall out. It began in the wake of Father and Son, a documentary on BBC Three in 2004 that made allegations over Ferguson's son, Jason, taking advantage of his father's influence while working as a football agent. Ferguson Jnr was never found guilty of any wrongdoing. Ferguson Snr determined that he would never talk to the BBC again – although a BBC Match of the Day camera crew were allowed into the media conference this week ahead of tomorrow's Carling Cup final. The game is to be shown live on BBC One as well as Sky.

In 2007, while the guest of honour at an "Audience with..." evening in a theatre on his hometown of Glasgow, Ferguson made his most bitter attack on the BBC. "I think the BBC is the kind of company that never apologise and they never will apologise," he said.

Match of the Day, who point out that the original cause for Ferguson's ire was not of their making, have long made do with his assistants, first Carlos Quieroz and now Mike Phelan, and have not been pressing the Premier League to ensure Ferguson talks to them. They would though welcome his presence on the programme once more and describe their "off-court" relations with the Scot as cordial.

Convincing their manager to bury the hatchet is one thing, but persuading their supporters to get behind the club is proving even more tricky for the Old Trafford hierarchy.

Last night the Manchester United Supporters' Trust (MUST) announced it has appointed the US-based online consultancy firm used by Barack Obama for his 2008 election in an attempt to double support for its anti-Glazer green and gold campaign to 100,000 members.

Blue State Digital ran the technology behind my.barackobama.com, which is widely credited with helping bring Obama to power – both by attracting members and raising money. BSD has claimed that $562m of the $750m collected by the Obama team came through the online donations.

MUST's decision follows the extraordinary success of the green and gold campaign since it was launched in the wake of revelations about the Glazers' financial strategy for United in the prospectus accompanying the £500m bond issue.

Online membership of MUST had risen to 52,370 as of yesterday afternoon. Green and gold scarves are likely to be highly visible at Wembley tomorrowl, with the depth of feeling something that even Ferguson has recognised.

He responded civilly to a recent letter from MUST and has said supporters have the right to protest – even though he challenges their assertion that the Glazers are depriving him of transfer market resources.

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