After going seven years without speaking to the BBC, Sir Alex Ferguson has now put an end to the boycott and will replace Mike Phelan as the voice of Manchester United on MOTD. The announcement followed a meeting between Ferguson and the BBC director general, Mark Thompson, and the director of BBC North, Peter Salmon.
“Sir Alex and the BBC have put behind them the difficulties which led to Sir Alex feeling unable to appear on BBC programmes. The issues have been resolved to the satisfaction of both parties. Sir Alex will now make himself available to the BBC for Match of the Day, Radio 5 live and other outlets as agreed. No further comment will be made by either party on this issue.”
This comes as a surprise to many, given how determined the manager was not to go back on his word to boycott the BBC after a programme they made on his son, Jason, in May 2004.
Panorama investigated a supposed £50,000 payment to L’attitude, where Jason Ferguson worked, for its role in the transfer of goalkeeper Massimo Taibi to Reggina, Italy, in 2000. President of Reggina and Taibi’s own agent tell the BBC they had no contact with L’attitude. It also claimed that Jason broke Fifa rules in the transfer of Jaap Stam to Lazio, as well as looking at allegations of payments made to agents in the Stam transfer.
At the time of the programme, six United players were represented by Jason’s company. The club severed all ties with the Elite agency but claimed there were “no untoward issues between Elite, which acts for 13 players, and the club.”
Sir Alex pleaded his son’s innocence, claiming there was no proof of their claims, and that he wouldn’t speak to them until they apologised for bad mouthing his son. Jason was never found guilty of any wrongdoing.
“I think the BBC is the kind of company that never apologise and they never will apologise,” he said in 2007. “They are arrogant beyond belief. They did a story about my son that was whole lot of nonsense. It all made-up stuff and ‘brown paper bags’ and all that kind of carry-on. It was a horrible attack on my son’s honour and he should never have been accused of that. But it is such a huge organisation that they will never apologise. They don’t even care if you sue them or whatever, because they are so huge and have insurance. They carry on regardless and it’s breathtaking.”
Are we to assume the BBC have apologised then? I guess we’ll never know…
May 2004: United cut Ferguson agency link
November 2004: Fergie turns BBC protest into ‘lifetime ban’
June 2008: Sir Alex Ferguson: Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker is childish
August 2010: Sir Alex Ferguson’s BBC boycott under review
March 2011: BBC bosses move to heal rift with Sir Alex Ferguson