Manchester United’s Patrice Evra was recently hit with a 4 match ban for his role in a bizarre brawl with Chelsea groundskeepers last April. Evra’s boss, manager Sir Alex Ferguson wouldn’t have been thrilled under any circumstances, but took particular umbrage over the revelation the Football Association panel handing down Evra’s punishment included an Arsenal season ticket holder, Nicholas Stewart QC. From the Guardian’s Daniel Taylor.
Ferguson felt strongly enough to express his displeasure about the way the case was handled in the original draft of his programme notes for Manchester United’s game against Chelsea on Sunday, only for his comments to be toned down after the intervention of the club’s chief executive, David Gill.
Stewart chaired the four-man independent disciplinary panel appointed by the FA that investigated Evra’s scuffles with the Chelsea groundsman Sam Bethell after a match at Stamford Bridge last April. The panel held the France left-back largely responsible in a verdict Ferguson later described as being one of the worst he had known in his 22 years at Old Trafford. “Of all the things the FA has done to this club over the years, that was one of the big shocks,” said Ferguson.
While there is no question of Stewart’s integrity or professionalism, Ferguson has strong reservations about a supporter of one of United’s major rivals being involved, on the basis that there could be allegations of a possible conflict of interest.
Ferguson’s notes on the Evra case were edited down to a paragraph which stated: “I am still shocked by the four-game ban handed out to Patrice following the incident at Stamford Bridge that saw him at odds with one of their groundsmen.”
Although Gill shares Ferguson’s disquiet, he does not have his manager’s famous desire for confrontation, and his own position on the board of the FA may have contributed to him not wanting to inflame an already tense situation. How Ferguson feels about his notes being changed is unclear, although it is believed to be unusual in the extreme.