I am returning to the subject of Alex Ferguson’s comments and analysing his apology placed upon the official Manchester United Website
“I apologise to Mr Wiley for any personal embarrassment that my remarks may have caused and to The FA for going public with my views.
“In retrospect, I accept that this could be deemed as expressing those views in an inappropriate forum.
“It was never my intention to bring the focus of intense media attention on Mr Wiley. I intend to contact him personally after I return from a trip overseas during this international break.
“I would wish it to be noted that I have always respected Mr Wiley’s integrity and that I did not state or imply:
· that Mr Wiley is a bad referee;
· that he was in any way biased;
· that decision-making generally during the game was poor, or
· that he missed any key incident during the game.
My only intention in speaking publicly, was to highlight what I believe to be a serious and important issue in the game, namely that the fitness levels of referees must match the ever increasing demands of the modern game, which I hope will now be properly addressed through the appropriate formal channels.”
In his public apology he was careful to point out the legal grounds why his comments are viewed by his legal advisors NOT to be defamatory or insulting by stating the comments that would have lead him to be liable for such a charge.
His legal advisors are using the defence of “fair comment” by broadening his personal attack on Alan Wiley to give the impression that he was making a general point about referees in the Premier League. He claims that the only crime that he was guilty of was using the wrong forum.
What do we make of this? Well here is the transcript of the recording where he makes those ill judged comments.
He was taking 30 seconds to book players, He couldn’t go up the pitch when the second goal was made, was scored he was telling Wayne Rooney that he needed a rest. Just not fit enough to referee a game of that standard, just not fit enough… Its an indictment on our game. We pay referees, full time referees they’re supposed to be, Just not fit enough..Credit to both sets of players, The pace of the game today from both sets demanded a good fit referee, we didn’t have one… Some people are as fit as butchers dogs at sixty-five yrs of age, you see it all the time, people they say, you look after yourself and you keep fit, age doesn’t come into it.
Well Alex, good try, but there are weaknesses in your defence…
“He couldn’t go up the pitch when the second goal was made, was scored he was telling Wayne Rooney that he needed a rest.”
Not fair comment in my view.
A clear observation which in my opinion implies that maybe just maybe Alan Wiley may not have been in a good position for when the second goal was scored. I have not seen the goal that he referred to, but as a member of the public, I draw the conclusion that Alex Ferguson is implying that Alan Wiley was either out of position or unable to judge the validity of the goal, i.e not performing his role correctly. Again in my opinion this is a direct suggestion of a failure of the competence of Alan Wiley…
Next Alex Ferguson says…
“Just not fit enough to referee a game of that standard, just not fit enough… Its an indictment on our game. We pay referees, full time referees they’re supposed to be, Just not fit enough..”
Ok, fair comment in the first part at first in that in Alex Ferguson’s opinion is that Alan Wiley was not fit enough to referee a game of that standard, however he then goes on to connect his personal opinion of Alan Wiley to a judgement that the result was
“An indictment on our game”
Indictment in this sense is defined from various dictionaries as
“an accusation of wrongdoing against a person”
So in addition to being unfit, I take the interpretation that Alan Wiley is implied to be bringing the game of football into disrepute, remember this is my opinion of the implied suggestion of the use of the word “Indictment” for someone like me, a ordinary member of the public who has not seen the incident referred to.
Why do I keep referring to myself as a member of the public?
Well I have given my views that I, having not seen the incident in question have come to the conclusion that Alex Ferguson is being severely critical of the standard of refereeing that Alan Wiley provided that day. Even allowing for any suggested bias in my being an author of Arsenal blogs critical of Alex Ferguson.
Well this is the legal standard that governs the laws of defamation and slander. The test is simple…
What would an ordinary member of the public think? would they think that Alan Wiley was a bad referee through virtue of his alleged unfitness? or would they think that Alex Ferguson was making a general fair comment about the fitness of referees in the Premier League in general?
So how many of you out there agree with my interpretations of his comments? For it is this barometer of opinion that may need influence Alan Wiley’s legal representatives to take legal action against Alex Ferguson if the FA fail to act. If as seems likely because of the absence of any swift charge against Alex Ferguson, they intend to fine him and avoid a protracted legal battle against Alex Ferguson, the FA can kiss goodbye to their RESPECT campaign.