Football: The great flaw of Scotland

Phil Gordon looks at Jim Farry, the SFA's chief executive, labelled Mr Insensitive

The headquarters of the Scottish Football Association has long been dubbed The House on the Hill by the Glasgow media and the title bestowed is not simply to reflect the building's leafy location overlooking the city's Kelvingrove Park.

A feudal nature has characterised the SFA's relationship with players, managers, clubs, fans and media over the years. It has played the role of Lord of the Manor while everyone was treated with the kind of disdain your average serf was given around the Middle Ages.

The fiasco of Scotland's much-publicised match with Belarus today could turn out to be the Peasants' Revolt, at least as far as Jim Farry is concerned. Ally McCoist may be no Wat Tyler, but the Rangers striker's refusal to play if the game was staged yesterday has given the lead to a volume of public opinion against the SFA's chief executive.

"Go Now!" screamed the Daily Record following the SFA figurehead's climbdown on holding the World Cup tie yesterday afternoon just hours after the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales. The Sun's Scottish edition greeted the match change with "Off - And So You Should Be, Farry!" The clamour for his resignation has spilled off the sports pages and on to the news pages.

The man who was merely an unpopular figure for those on the terraces - he was roundly jeered by fans at last season's Scottish Cup final as he was presented to the players of Falkirk and Kilmarnock - suddenly found his name uttered on every street as he became public enemy No 1 for his handling of the whole issue.

The irony is that the SFA is probably the world's least accountable organisation. It has, frankly, never given a damn what anyone thinks. This time, however, it revealed its flaws not merely to the football fraternity but the public arena.

Solving the problem of fitting in an essential football match - and the World Cup programme is running out of time - when the public's thoughts were elsewhere, called for sensitivity, not a characteristic the SFA or Farry are over-endowed with. This, after all, is the man who once delayed a charity game in aid of Bosnia because the Bosnian FA had not given clearance.

Farry should not be condemned for suggesting the game remain on Saturday. He was not alone in that belief. I, along with number of people whose opinion I canvassed, subscribed to the view that Scotland should have been at Pittodrie at 3pm yesterday if there was no alternative. It would not have been the first time sport simply got on with life, leaving others to grieve; Munich 1972 and Heysel 1985 spring most readily to mind. Nor, it must be remembered, did Britain grind to a halt after the Dunblane tragedy, a far more horrifying event which had a traumatic effect on this part of the world.

However, if an alternative existed - and one miraculously appeared - then I was willing to bow to the greater body of opinion which wanted the game rescheduled. So should the SFA, but it didn't take that route until forced into a very tight corner. Farry 's crime was to fail to read the public mood on the issue and claim that the initial decision to play on Saturday had been taken only after full consultation with the Government, Buckingham Palace and Belarus: all of whom later denied this.

Some of the SFA council's 48 members have asked for an inquiry into the PR nightmare. Yet those on the seven-strong international committee defend their chief executive, blaming Fifa, whose top brass were at a conference in Cairo, for the delay. Indeed, the SFA president, Jack McGinn, has claimed they were on the verge of pulling out of the World Cup because they hit so many stumbling blocks in trying to re-arrange the Belarus fixture.

Worst of all, the procrastination affected no one more than Craig Brown, the man Farry is supposed to be helping to reach the World Cup finals. The Scotland coach held a training session late on Wednesday afternoon not knowing if the game he was planning for was two, three or, as it turned out, four days away. Neither did he know how many players would follow the line of McCoist, Andy Goram and Gordon Durie and become conscientious objectors, nor could he be sure if the public would not snub his team if they played on Saturday afternoon and see the tie played out in front of a ghostly Pittodrie gathering of just a few thousand fans.

Brown, who wanted the kick-off moved, admits: "We want the public, players and country behind us. That has been changed because of what has been decided."

Scotland need a repeat of the victory they achieved over Belarus in Minsk three months ago to maintain their push for France 98. Qualifying would uncork the enthusiasm in a country where football is still very much the people's game. Unfortunately, the game is led by by men who are not the people's choice.

Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm today
News
people
News
Elton John and David Furnish exchange marriage vows
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
News
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
Arts and Entertainment
The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit director Peter Jackson with his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
film
News
people
News
Billie Whitelaw was best known for her close collaboration with playwright Samuel Beckett, here performing in a Beckett Trilogy at The Riverside Studios, Hammersmith
people'Omen' star was best known for stage work with Samuel Beckett
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Wright has won The Apprentice 2014
tvThe Apprentice 2014 final
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Manufacturing Manager

£35000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a rare opportunity for ...

Recruitment Genius: Conveyancing Fee Earner / Technical Support

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An experienced Fee Earner/Techn...

Recruitment Genius: Receptionist

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This law firm is seeking a happy, helpful and ...

The Jenrick Group: Production Supervisor

£26000 - £29000 per annum + Holidays & Pension: The Jenrick Group: Production ...

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'