Ferguson accepts charge

LONDON - Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson has accepted a charge of improper conduct following his comments on the fitness of referee Alan Wiley.

LONDON - Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson has accepted a charge of improper conduct following his comments on the fitness of referee Alan Wiley.

Ferguson criticised Wiley after his team's 2-2 Premier League draw with Sunderland at Old Trafford on October 3, saying the official was not fit enough to keep up with the pace of the match.

Those comments infuriated many referees, who claimed it was unwarranted and would leave a lasting stain on Wiley's reputation.

The referees' union, Prospect, subsequently called for Ferguson to be given a lengthy touchline ban.

Ferguson later apologised to Wiley, by saying: "I apologise to Mr Wiley for any personal embarrassment my comments may have caused and to the FA for going public with my views.

"In retrospect I accept that they could be deemed as expressing those views in an inappropriate form. It was never my intention to bring the focus of intense media interest on Mr Wiley."

Many critics accused Ferguson of undermining the "Respect" campaign of the English Football Association, designed to encourage better behaviour towards officials at all levels of the game.

Despite the furore, Ferguson had no qualms about criticising the performance of referee Andre Marriner after United's 2-0 loss to Liverpool at Anfield on Sunday.

Ferguson has asked for a personal hearing with the FA and a date has yet to be set. - Sapa-AFP

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