London - Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson risked damaging the game's integrity while undermining attempts to eradicate abuse of referees with his criticisms, England's Football Association has ruled.
After United's 2-1 loss at Chelsea this month, Ferguson blasted match official Martin Atkinson's performance, complaining that the Premier League leaders didn't get a "fair or strong referee."
The full findings of the FA's Independent Regulatory Commission that led to Ferguson being banned from the touchline for five matches and fined 30 000 pounds ($48 000) were released on Wednesday.
"Whatever view one may take about the performance of Mr. Atkinson, or any other (referee), respect for their integrity is essential for the integrity of the game," wrote barrister Craig Moore, who chaired the commission. "His vast experience ought to have left Sir Alex in no doubt as to how any sense of injustice he may have felt about the decisions made in a match, or the performance of an official, should properly be channeled and expressed."
Moore said Ferguson's failure to apologise to Atkinson was a "serious aggravating" factor when punishing him.
"Although he denied any intention to question Mr. Atkinson's integrity, he should, at the very least, have realised the importance of what he said," Moore wrote. "It follows that any credit to which Sir Alex may have been entitled by admitting the charge, and reduction in sanction, was lost.
"In addition, it follows from his denial of the charge that no clarification or retraction of any of his comments has been made by Sir Alex and no apology given to Mr. Atkinson, even after the charge had been brought."
Ferguson, who refuses to attend media conferences after Premier League matches, was punished for comments on United's in-house television channel, MUTV.
"I must say, when I saw who the referee was I did fear it," Ferguson told the pay-TV channel. "I fear, I feared the worst."
The outburst earned Ferguson a three-game ban and two matches were added to the sanction because of a previous suspended sentence hanging over the 69-year-old Scotsman.
Half of a four-match penalty for questioning referee Alan Wiley's fitness after a match last season had been suspended until the end of this campaign but was activated.
The commission found that Ferguson's latest comments "undermined the attempts by the association, through its 'Respect Campaign' to encourage higher standards of behavior within the game, including respect for officials," Moore said.
Ferguson was furious that Atkinson refused to send off Chelsea defender David Luiz for fouls on Javier Hernandez and Wayne Rooney after the Brazil international had already been booked.
He was also critical of the awarding of a late penalty to Chelsea for United defender Chris Smalling's foul on substitute Yuri Zhirkov. Frank Lampard converted the spot kick for what proved to be the winning goal.
The domestic suspension was forcing Ferguson to watch four league games and the FA Cup semifinal against Manchester City on April 16 from the stands.
United has a five-point lead over Arsenal as the team chases a record-breaking 19th English title. Ferguson has delivered 11 of those since taking charge in 1986 as well as winning the Champions League twice.