Pressure was mounting yesterday on Jim Farry, chief executive of the Scottish Football Association, over his alleged intransigence in the face of calls to reschedule Scotland's World Cup qualifier against Belarus.
The Labour MP for Clydesdale, Jimmy Hood, claimed Farry should resign after "an act of such arrogance it beggars belief". Donald Findlay QC, vice-chairman of Rangers, demanded an inquiry into a delay which had "caused the nation so much anger and embarrassment".
The match was originally due to be played at Aberdeen at 3pm tomorrow, at a time when the funeral cortege will be travelling up the M1. Despite Belarus' early declaration of their willingness to play on Friday, Farry continued to maintain that the game would go ahead as planned.
On Wednesday, four members of Craig Brown's squad announced they were not prepared to play tomorrow. Only then did the SFA appear to acknowledge the depth of popular feeling. Late that evening, it announced a new time of 2pm on Sunday.
While a rush to judgement might have spared Farry the wrath of politicians, press and public, it would not necessarily have been prudent. Any new date was sure to prompt protests from their rivals to qualify, particularly Sweden. Moreover, Belarus were reluctant to play on Sunday because they have another game on Wednesday.
Such difficulties, plus the need to liaise with Grampian Police and Fifa, world football's ruling body, were what Farry had in mind when he spoke of "insurmountable logistical problems".
Campbell Ogilvie, Rangers' secretary and a member of the SFA's international committee, suggested it was Fifa, not Farry, who had been inflexible. "They wanted the game to go on as scheduled, but after the outcry there seemed to be a shift in their stance. Criticism of Jim Farry has been made by those not fully informed."
Following a stint as a soil-shoveller and truck driver for a landscape gardener, Farry joined the SFA as an office administrator, was headhunted by the Scottish League, and at 25 became its youngest-ever secretary. In 1990, he succeeded Ernie Walker to the SFA's top post. Five years on, he said he considered himself "one of the best administrators in Europe". A fondness for words like "cognisant" and "promulgate" cemented perceptions of pomposity.
Likewise the lengthy memo Farry sent to the Scottish Cup finalists warning against excessive celebrating. He also put a bureaucratic block on a friendly at Inverness in aid of Bosnian war refugees.
His wish is that the modernisation of Hampden Park will prove a monument to his reign, to which end he remarked that the Cup final in 2000 might be one occasion when he is not booed. A reporter quipped: "Is it going to be played behind closed doors, then?"
Farry joined in the laughter, yet his insistence that he saw "no reason to apologise" for the Belarus fiasco means his legacy is likely to be rather different. Perhaps the SFA's patron could offer advice on PR skills. Sadly, the Queen seems to have problems of her own in that area.Reuse content