Ferguson Asks Supporters to Call off Cheltenham Protest

Sir Alex Ferguson, the manager of Manchester United soccer club, Friday asked supporters to call off their planned protest at the United Kingdom's Cheltenham Racecourse on March 18.

Supporters have been planning a demonstration on the final day of the three-day Cheltenham Festival in support of Ferguson's on-going dispute with Coolmore Stud's John Magnier over income from the stallion Rock Of Gibraltar. They are also concerned with the possibility of a takeover of Manchester United by Magnier and his Irish business partner J.P. McManus, whose company Cubic Expression owns 29% of the soccer club's shares.

"The Cheltenham Festival is a classic meeting in the National Hunt racing calendar, which people from all over the world and all walks of life come to enjoy," said Ferguson in a statement this morning.

"It is effectively the equivalent of the FA Cup final to horseracing fans and I would not wish this special festival to be marred in any way.

"I am therefore asking supporters to refrain from any form of protest and am strongly opposed to any violent, unlawful or disruptive behavior which may reflect badly on the club and its supporters in general."

A peaceful protest was being planned by various groups claiming to be able to mobilize some 200 people inside the course, to take place around the time of the bonusprint.com Stayers' Hurdle on March 18. The McManus-owned Baracouda is the hot favorite to record a third successive victory in that championship race.

The Cheltenham Festival is the highlight of the jump racing season and is a sell-out. Some 60,000 are due to attend.

Ferguson added: "My current dispute with John Magnier is a private matter not involving the club and its supporters and I am concerned first and foremost to protect and serve the best interests and further success of the club
"I wish to express my real appreciation for the support which I have always received from supporters in the 17 years I have been with the club and re-affirm my complete commitment to furthering the interests of the club."

Ferguson was given a half share in Rock Of Gibraltar early in the horse's career by Magnier.

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