I FIXED ALEX'S GONG; Campbell's Brazen Admission of His Role in Soccer Boss's Honour

Daily Mail (London), March 20, 2004 | Go to article overview

I FIXED ALEX'S GONG; Campbell's Brazen Admission of His Role in Soccer Boss's Honour


Byline: DAVID HUGHES

ALASTAIR CAMPBELL has admitted that he personally intervened to get his friend Alex Ferguson a knighthood.

The former Number 10 spin doctor said he offered Ferguson the honour minutes after Manchester United won the European Cup in 1999.

Mr Campbell was at the game in Barcelona as a guest of the United manager.

The revelation raises serious new questions about the honours system under Labour.

Critics will demand to know why an unelected civil servant was able to dispense such a cherished award to a close friend and Labour donor.

Mr Campbell described what happened in a speech last week at the annual dinner of Manchester Chamber of Commerce, where he shared a table with Sir Alex.

He told his audience he had persistently lobbied in Number Ten for Ferguson to be given a knighthood.

'I was told that if Man United won the treble (Premiership, FA Cup and European Cup) I could approach Alex and ask him if he would be prepared to accept a knighthood,' Mr Campbell told the business leaders.

He said that immediately the final whistle went in Barcelona, clinching the treble, he fought through crowds and jumped over fences in an attempt to reach Ferguson.

Then he spotted the manager's wife, Kathy, and asked breathlessly if she thought he would accept a knighthood. She replied: 'Don't you think he's won enough already?' Mr Campbell said he phoned Ferguson later that night and the manager said he would be honoured to accept.

The dinner was held, appropriately, at Manchester United's ground, Old Trafford. One guest called the Campbell speech 'really sycophantic'. He said: 'He was really putting himself across as the hero, the man behind the honour.' The guest said Mr Campbell admitted: 'This is what the Press would call a revelation.' Mr Campbell's role in Ferguson's knighthood was exposed by former sports minister Kate Hoey on Thursday. She told MPs that the then Downing Street communications chief fast-tracked Ferguson onto the Queen' s birthday honours list in June 1999.

Downing Street rejected the allegations, saying no one at Number Ten had anything to do with the awarding of honours.

But that was not how Mr Campbell recalled it in his speech last week.

Ferguson was formally offered the knighthood in a call from the Downing Street honours secretary a few days after the Barcelona final. The nomination and processing of such an honour normally takes up to six months and involves careful scrutiny.

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I FIXED ALEX'S GONG; Campbell's Brazen Admission of His Role in Soccer Boss's Honour
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