Soccer-United's Ferguson backs call for respect to referees

MANCHESTER, England, March 21 (Reuters) - Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has backed the campaign for players to show greater respect to referees.

The Football Association has launched an initiative to improve behaviour towards officials, which has also been backed by England coach Fabio Capello.

And even though Ferguson has been asked by the FA to explain his criticism of referee Martin Atkinson following United’s FA Cup defeat by Portsmouth earlier this month, the United manager labelled the haranguing of match officials by players as “ridiculous”.

“We had a pivotal moment some years ago when my players surrounded Andy D’Urso,” the United manager told a news conference on Friday.

“I went off my head with them about that. I thought it was ridiculous and it never happened again.

“We tell them to shake the hand of the referee at the end of the game. It’s sometimes difficult but they have to do it.

“In the same way if you lose a game we invite the opposing manager for a drink after the game. We do it because we think it’s important. Life goes on.”


United were widely criticised following the incident in 2000 when a group of players, led by Roy Keane, launched a tirade of abuse against D’Urso for a penalty decision he gave against United at Old Trafford.

The issue was brought into sharp focus again on Wednesday by the reaction of Ashley Cole to referee Mike Reilly after the Chelsea defender was booked for an ugly challenge on Tottenham’s Alan Hutton.

England international Cole has since apologised to both parties and Ferguson is keen to see an end to such behaviour.

“We were talking the other week about introducing respect to the referee at grass-roots level and I think it’s absolutely correct.

“The haranguing of referees is ridiculous. It’s not right. We see it as an issue and since the Andy D’Urso game we are not into that.” (Editing by Miles Evans)