A controversy is brewing in English football, after retired referee, Mark Halsey, admitted that he and former Manchester United manager, Alex Ferguson, were “friends” who used to SMS one another.
For years, Manchester United’s opponents alleged that the Red Devils benefited during matches from Fergie’s undue influence on referees.
The notion of ‘Fergie time’, soft penalties for United at Old Trafford and other decisions seeming to go their way, led to one of the great conspiracy theories of the Premier League era.
Ex-Liverpool manager, Rafa Benitez, even felt the need to read out a list of the ways he and other managers believed Fergie held sway, in a statement commonly referred to as the ‘Rafa rant.’
According to the Professional Game and Match Officials Ltd, the body that appoints officials for top-flight matches, referees are not allowed to make “direct contact with managers and players, which for integrity reasons is prohibited.”
And so while Halsey insists his relationship with Fergie was above board, the fact that he and the great manager would send one another private messages against the rules has sounded alarm bells.
In his recently published book ‘Added Time’, Halsey refers to the incident that took place last year, when Chelsea midfielder, Jon Obi Mikel, alleged that another ref- Mark Clattenburg- called him a monkey during a game against United.
Halsey intervened on Calttenburg’s behalf, by sending a message to Fergie.
"I took matters in my own hands and rang Sir Alex asking him to speak out,” he writes.
“He agreed and used his Friday press conference to say he could not conceive of Mark saying such things.
It helped the situation a great deal."
"It took time to gain Sir Alex Ferguson's respect but in the end we had a very good relationship," Halsey continues.
"One thing should be made clear about my relationship with Sir Alex.
"I may have spoken to him a lot and shared texts but he knew when I crossed that white line there were no favours.
"Players and managers would not respect you if you gave decisions based on friendship."