FA: Alex Ferguson's comments hurt

Updated: March 23, 2011, 2:39 PM ET
Associated Press

LONDON -- England's Football Association says Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson's criticism of referees hurts the integrity of the sport.

The full findings of the FA's Independent Regulatory Commission were released on Wednesday. Ferguson was banned five matches and fined $48,000 for the comments.

After United lost at Chelsea this month, Ferguson blasted Martin Atkinson's performance, complaining that the Premier League leaders didn't get a "fair or strong referee."

"Whatever view one may take about the performance of Mr. Atkinson, or any other [referee], respect for their integrity is essential for the integrity of the game," wrote Craig Moore, who chaired the commission.

"[The comments] clearly called into question the integrity of Mr. Atkinson and brought the game into disrepute by suggesting that a particular referee lacked impartiality."

Moore said Ferguson's failure to apologize to Atkinson was a "serious aggravating" factor when punishing him.

The outburst earned Ferguson a three-game ban and two matches were added to the sanction because of a previous suspended sentence hanging over the 69-year-old Scotsman.

Moore added that Ferguson "undermined the [campaign] ... to encourage higher standards of behavior within the game, including respect for officials."

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press