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Why did Sir Alex Ferguson boycott BBC for more than seven years?

Sir Alex Ferguson has had his fair share of tiffs with the press during his time at Old Trafford
Sir Alex Ferguson has had his fair share of tiffs with the press during his time at Old Trafford
Hitesh Mallick

Sir Alex Ferguson is widely regarded as the best manager to ever have graced the game of Football. In his time as Manchester United's manager, he won a number of trophies which include 13 Premier League titles, 2 Champions League trophies, 5 FA cups and 1 FIFA Club World Cup. He revolutionised Manchester United and ended Liverpool's domination in the Domestic League.

It's safe to say that he was the person that made Manchester United the brand it is today. Seeing Louis Van Gaal struggle as the current Manchester United manager is what makes Fergie's achievements all the more remarkable. But Sir Alex had his fair share of feuds which was obvious given his bold nature.

One of the most talked about feuds ever to have existed in English Football is that of Sir Alex and The BBC. On 27th May 2004, BBC3 aired a documentary on Sir Alex and his son Jason, Fergie and Son. Ferguson deemed the content as objectionable and felt that his son was portrayed in a wrong manner. The feud lasted for 7 years where Sir Alex boycotted any interview or Post match reaction from BBC along with Match of the Day.

The documentary was produced by Alex Millar, an investigative reporter, who had previously worked as a chief researcher on Michael Crick's unauthorised biography of Ferguson, The Boss(published in 2002). For the documentary, Millar based his material on one of the chapters from the biography named "Jason and the larger noughts".

In The Boss, Millar went back to the revelations made by Crick regarding Jason's role as an agent(who then worked for a sports agency named L' Attitude) in the transfer of goalkeeper Massimo Taibi to Reggina in 2000. Jason had been paid ÂŖ25,000 as a result of the deal but the Italian club's president and the player revealed that Jason had played no part in the transfer. The biography also shed light on Jaap Stam's transfer to Lazio in 2001.

However, by 2004, more revelations were made. This time by Manchester United's then Finance director, Nick Humby. In 2004, Sir Alex had a huge fallout with the club's major shareholders, J. P. McManus and John Magnier which made them pose 99 questions about Manchester United's financial propriety to the board.

Sir Alex and his son Jason(L) were cleared of any sort of wrongdoings by the club
Sir Alex and his son Jason(L) were cleared of any sort of wrongdoings by the club

These questions somehow reached the Daily Mail which increased the scrutiny around the club. To resolve the issue, the club announced a review of the transfer dealings from January 2001 to January 2004, which was to be carried out by the club's then finance director Nick Humby.

To make matters worse, BBC decided to publicly release some of the findings made by Alex Millar. This added to the air of tension around Old Trafford. And just two days before the broadcast of the documentary, United went public with Nick Humby's transfer reviews. The transfer reviews overshadowed Millar's earlier findings. And the findings from the transfer reviews were made the main content for the documentary.

One Conclusion, from the transfer reviews, that stood out from the rest was Jason and Elite (Jason's agency) would never again be permitted to act on behalf of Manchester United. The club, however, cleared Ferguson and his son of any wrongdoings. All this was added to the documentary and presented with animation which made Ferguson find the documentary disrespectful.

Another reason for Ferguson to have boycotted was his previous impression of the national broadcaster which made him criticise BBC in Glasgow in 2000. Sir Alex called them "arrogant beyond belief" with "an inability to apologise".

The spat was resolved in 2011 when BBC's director general, Mark Thompson had a meeting along with Director of BBC North, Peter Salmon. Thompson tried to make the point that the issue had gone on for too long and they should bury the hatchet, particularly as BBC had moved into its new headquarters in Salford which was in close proximity to Old Trafford.

The settlement came as a surprise to many as most people thought that Ferguson would continue the boycott until he received an apology from BBC. Even though he received no apology, he decided to resolve the issue and matters have been going smooth between BBC and the Red Devils.

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Edited by Staff Editor

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