Manchester Utd.’s Ferguson Banned 5 Games After Comments on Ref Atkinson

Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson was suspended a total of five matches and fined 30,000 pounds ($48,000) by the Football Association for his comments to the media about referee Martin Atkinson.

Ferguson was suspended three games for criticizing Atkinson in post-match interviews following United’s 2-1 loss at Chelsea on March 1, the F.A. said in a statement. A two-match ban was also invoked, relating to a previous charge of improper conduct over media comments in October 2009, the F.A. said.

The manager criticized Atkinson for failing to send off Chelsea defender David Luiz for fouls on Javier Hernandez and Wayne Rooney after he had already been booked. He then appeared to question Atkinson’s integrity in a post-match interview by saying he wanted a “fair referee, or a strong referee anyway, and we didn’t get that.”

The F.A. charged Ferguson with improper conduct over the comments and the manager appealed. An independent regulatory commission met today and handed down the ban.

The ban will begin March 22, the F.A. said. If Ferguson doesn’t appeal, among the matches he’ll miss will be the F.A. Cup semifinal against Manchester City and a Premier League game at Arsenal on May 1. United leads the league standings by three points over Arsenal, which has played one game fewer.

The F.A. said the additional two-match ban stemmed from Ferguson’s comments about referee Alan Wiley following a match against Sunderland in 2009. The manager was banned four games at that time, with two suspended until the end of this season and only to be enforced if Ferguson was found guilty of a similar charge.

The F.A. also charged West Ham manager Avram Grant with improper conduct relating to media comments about referee Mike Jones after the Hammers’ game at Stoke on March 13. Grant has until March 21 to respond to the charge.

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