Sir Alex Ferguson has been waging war on referee’s boss, Keith Hackett, for some time now, looking at the inconsistencies of the FA and the referee’s under Hackett’s guidance.

Towards the start of last season, Ferguson pointed out the slipping standards in refereeing, saying that the buck stopped with Hackett.

“At the summer conference, [referees’ chief] Keith Hackett was on about tackling from behind,” Ferguson said. “He made a promise to the managers that tackles with raised feet off the ground would be a red card and that tackles from the back would be a red card. Standards must be slipping because there have been some bad tackles recently, not just in our games but in quite a few others. And what happens then is that if someone gets seriously injured? Who gets the blame? The referee gets the blame.”

A few months later, Ferguson was on Hackett’s case again, after one bad challenge, followed by another, went entirely unpunished by the referee, with less than 10 minutes played.

“Keith Hackett has got a lot to answer for because he is not doing his job properly,” he said. “He has to be assessed. I am assessed as a manager, the players are assessed and the referees should be assessed. That kind of performance (by the referee) should not be accepted. The standards are not good enough, but they are much better in Europe.”

Following the FA’s decision to allow John Terry’s rugby tackle go unpunished, Ferguson has again called in to question the performance of Hackett.

“From what I have heard, Keith Hackett has told the referee to rescind the red card and he wouldn’t do it,” said Ferguson. “If it had been a Manchester United player, Keith Hackett wouldn’t have done this. If the referee has made a mistake, this is going to happen all the time.”

See this is where the FA’s ‘Respect the Referee’ campaign is damaged massively. After Terry’s sending off, several Chelsea players surrounded the referee. They couldn’t understand why their team mate had been sent off, and instead of the captain doing the talking, as the FA have asked for, Ashley Cole, Frank Lampard, Ricardo Carvalho and Nicolas Anelka all had words with the ref.

What do the FA’s guidelines say? As a captain, you have no special status or privileges under the Laws of the Game, but you do have a degree of responsibility for the behaviour of your team. To promote Respect, the referee will work with you, as the team captain, to manage the players and the game effectively.

It was Terry’s responsibility to talk to the referee, yet four other players did the talking. The FA have seen footage of this, numerous times, yet nothing has been said. Whether they agreed with the decision or not, the FA have made it clear on where they stand with just the captain’s involvement in these situations. The referee’s word is final and it is between him and the captain.

Mark Halsey believed that a defender wrapping his arms around an attacking player’s waist and pulling him to the floor was grounds for a red card, under the name of ‘serious foul play’. On some occasions referees may opt for a yellow card instead, but a red card is not out of the question for such an offence.

By rescinding the referee’s punishment and allowing four players to contest the decision, they are totally undermining the referee’s authority. Respect the referee? Why? Hackett hasn’t respected Halsey on this occasion. He’s been demoted three divisions to referee a League Two games at the weekend.

This isn’t about John Terry or Chelsea anymore, but Keith Hackett and the FA. Just weeks in to the season and they’re already going back on the rules they made such a fuss of promoting in the summer.

Maybe next weekend it’s Rio Ferdinand who gets sent off in controversial circumstances, and Vidic, Rooney and Giggs question it. What then? Do the FA follow their own guidelines, or the new rules put in place for Terry this week? If United appeal, will the decision be taken back or will Rio get another match ban like Jeremie Aliadiere?  Maybe it will be Steven Gerrard who gets sent off, with Carragher, Torres and Mascherano having words. What then?

The problem isn’t Terry’s, or Manchester United’s (who will now play against the player who should have been suspended), but Hackett’s, because he has put every club in a complicated and confusing position. Do we really have to respect the referee? In regards to the FA, is it a case of do as they say, not as they do?

Time will tell, but I have no doubt we’ll be referring to this incident several times before the season is out.




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