In an era when business leaders are expected to harness warm and open relationships with the media, Sir Alex Ferguson plays by his own rule book. Credit where it is due, under his leadership, Manchester United has become the most successful football club in our history, despite Sir Alex’s hostility and loathing of the press if they don’t jump to his tune.
The Times updates us on Sir Alex’s latest tirades:
“A Daily Mail reporter is the latest to be banned from Manchester United’s weekly press briefings for revealing that Antonio Valencia left the training ground on crutches on Tuesday. This follows bans for two reporters for revealing that Rio Ferdinand had picked up an injury – shock horror, I know – before United played Everton. How long are they banned? ‘For life’, apparently.
“The message is that reporters should report only what United want them to write or risk exclusion from the briefings that every other club offers unconditionally.
“Pathetic. Sir Alex Ferguson’s job is to control those who come under his authority – out-of-condition players, leaky employees and the fitness, conditioning and medical staff – rather than those, such as journalists and referees, of whom neutrality is demanded.”
Astonishingly, Sir Alex only lifted a seven year ban against the BBC last year. He had refused to give them interviews since 2004 after a BBC documentary made allegations against his son, Jason.
Imagine if a politician or any influential leader had acted this way and were allowed to take their personal grudges to work, they would be heavily castigated. Yet Sir Alex seems to get away with it.
According to Piers Morgan, the way to deal with a “bully” like Sir Alex is to give him a dose of his own medicine.
He tweeted this message in August after reports that Sir Alex had dished out yet another media ban: “Ferguson did this to the Mirror once, so I banned him from the paper. He soon backed down. Only way to treat a bully.”
Would our media be brave enough to show solidarity and ban their coverage of United’s matches in protest against Sir Alex’s petulant behaviour? I think they should.
*Here is my account of what happened when Sir Alex mistakenly sat next to me on the press bench at a climate change conference with Al Gore in Cambridge.