Give the man­agers somerope

The Jewish Chronicle - - Sport -

about his ac­tions by the Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion, and it was said he got off lightly. How so? We all want re­spect for ref­er­ees, but it has to be bal­anced with re­spect for man­agers; for their free­dom to de­liver an hon­est opin­ion. In the fall-out from Sir Alex Fer­gu­son’s crit­i­cisms of Alan Wi­ley, we are in dan­ger of over-re­ac­tion. It can­not be right that 76,000 peo­ple in a sta­dium are al­lowed to ex­press a view and the one man who is not is the guy with most at stake. There are bound­aries, cer­tainly in in­cen­di­ary lan­guage im­ply­ing cheat­ing or cor­rup­tion, but it is wrong to deny a man­ager his voice: cer­tainly in an age when the worth of his words can in­stantly be as­sessed with an action re­play.

More than any fine or ban, the greater penalty for Ben­itez was that once the base­less na­ture of his protests had been es­tab­lished, it made him look fool­ish. He be­came a man looking for ex­cuses to dis­tract from a poor per­for­mance by his side and his er­ror in los­ing Xabi Alonso. Once the Prozone statis­tics re­vealed that Wi­ley had run fur­ther than all but four Manch­ester United play­ers dur­ing the match with Sun­der­land, Fer­gu­son’s crit­i­cism of his fit­ness back­fired spec­tac­u­larly and he was widely called to ac­count as a man­ager try­ing to de­flect from the in­ad­e­qua­cies of his team.

The real pu­n­ish­ment for a man­ager falsely bad-mouthing a ref­eree is loss of cred­i­bil­ity, just as a player who is iden­ti­fied by tele­vi­sion as a diver loses out in the long run be­cause even le­git­i­mate fouls are ig­nored amid sus­pi­cion.

The FA does not need to bring back hang­ing on this one, they just need to give man­agers enough rope. Martin Sa­muel is the chief sports writer of the Daily Mail, where his col­umn ap­pears on Mon­day and Wed­nes­day

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