AS THEIR lawyers prepared to go head-to-head over Rio Ferdinand in Bolton this morning, Manchester United and the Football Association were briefly united yesterday after Sepp Blatter, the president of Fifa, the world governing body, once more threatened to interfere in the case.
In a newspaper column written under his own name, Blatter reiterated his threat, made in Frankfurt earlier this month, to intervene if he was unhappy with the FA's processing of the case. He also countered criticism, by United's chief executive, David Gill, of his earlier suggestion that United could be docked the points won with Ferdinand in their team while the case was pending. Gill had called Blatter's words "incomprehensible", prompting an angry Blatter to suggest that Gill "had a guilty conscience".
Yesterday, Blatter said it could be Fifa's duty to intervene in the case which follows Ferdinand's failure to take a drugs test at United's Carrington training ground on 23 September. He also said he was considering pushing for a lifetime ban for players caught taking drugs, with their club also being severely punished. At present the World Anti-Doping Agency's recommended punishment for a serious offence is a two-year ban. This does not apply in football as Fifa, at Blatter's behest, refused to sign up to the agreement.
Referring to his initial comments on Ferdinand, made in Dubai three weeks ago, Blatter said: "I want to make clear why I spoke out and in particular to underline my words were not the result of some autocratic whim, but of considered analysis.
"My comments on the Rio Ferdinand case - when I suggested that the player should be suspended pending his hearing and his club docked the points won in matches he has taken part in since his drug test - have proved controversial. But surely, if we condemn a player who has either refused or miraculously forgotten to take a drug test, it is not Fifa that is at fault but those directly responsible for this inexcusable omission and its aftermath; that is, the individual himself, his club, and the FA, which has not swiftly enforced the laws on the suspension of players that ought to be applied.
"If Fifa sees this sort of thing happening, it is its duty to intervene. …