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Obituary: Jim Farry, football administrator

James Farry, football administrator. Born: 1 July, 1954, in Glasgow. Died: 10 November, 2010, in East Kilbride, aged 56.

James Farry, usually known as Jim, gained unexpected international infamy in the days following the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, in 1997.

Farry was then the chief executive of the Scottish Football Association (SFA) and the Scotland national team was scheduled to play Belarus in a World Cup qualifying match on Saturday, 6 September, six days after the princess's death in a car accident in Paris.

The date had been declared a day of national mourning, and Farry completely misjudged the mood of the nation when he insisted that the match would go ahead on the afternoon following the late morning funeral.

He was a stickler for the rulebook, and one of that still prevalent breed of football administrator who believed that the sport was a rule unto itself. His stance was backed by many in the SFA, but crucially, the Scotland players, led by Ally McCoist of Rangers, stated their unwillingness to play on the Saturday.

Secretary of State for Scotland Donald Dewar MP personally intervened to put pressure on the SFA to postpone the match, while Farry became the target of a media hate campaign at home and abroad, which, for once, was responding to genuine public feeling.

Farry claimed the backing of Buckingham Palace for proceeding with the 3pm kick-off at Pittodrie Stadium in Aberdeen - Hampden Park was under reconstruction - and also said the Belarus FA was unable to agree to a postponement.

In the feverish days before the princess's funeral, Farry became singled out for opprobrium and even Prime Minister Tony Blair intervened to seek a postponement. Crucially, the ambassador of Belarus, Uladzimir Shchasny, said his country would not stand in the way, and football's governing body Fifa sanctioned a 24-hour delay in the match, which Scotland won 4-1 en route to qualifying for the 1998 World Cup in France - the last major finals in which the national side has competed.

There were numerous calls for Farry to resign over the issue, with the then Clydesdale Labour MP Jimmy Hood saying it was the only honourable course for him to take.

The chief executive refused to go, saying memorably: "Perhaps it is not unusual in the life of the secretary of the SFA to receive such calls. I will be in for work in the morning."

In 1999, Farry could not avoid leaving the SFA over another hugely controversial issue which reverberates to this day.The seeds of his downfall had been sown the year before the death of the princess, when Farry unaccountably delayed the approval of the transfer of Portuguese international Jorge Cadete from Sporting Lisbon to Celtic.

Fergus McCann, the man who had saved Celtic from bankruptcy and was then in the process of rebuilding the Glasgow club, began a long and successful campaign to bring Farry to account for the delay, which McCann claimed had cost Celtic the league championship and Scottish Cup of season 1995-96, as Cadete proved to be a prolific goalscorer when he was eventually permitted to play.

Three years after the delayed transfer, an independent hearing under the chairmanship of judge Lord Dervaig found that Farry had indeed delayed matters, and he was severely criticised.

The SFA paid Celtic 10,000 compensation and all their legal costs, and with the bad feeling from the funeral row still hanging around him, Farry was forced out of office shortly afterwards, albeit with a six-figure severance package which reportedly included a gagging clause. Farry never satisfactorily explained his actions over Cadete, and never commented on the case afterwards. The case is still cited by Celtic fans as evidence of bias against their club.

These two issues sullied a record of achievement of which Farry could be rightly proud.

Born to a policeman in east Glasgow, Farry attended school in East Kilbride. After working as a gardener and milkman, while still a teenager he joined the SFA as an administrative assistant before becoming the youngest ever secretary of the Scottish Football League at the age of 25 in 1979.

His record of success at the SFL, particularly in gaining sponsorship, led to his appointment as chief executive of the SFA in 1990. In the following decade of upheaval that included the freedom of contract ruling for players, undoubtedly his greatest achievement was to help secure the complete reconstruction of Hampden Park.

He was able to quote the rule books from memory, and the mustachioed Farry's meticulous assertions of rules and regulations in media interviews were a gift to mimics, but in private he was a genial figure.

He was certainly deeply hurt by his dismissal from the SFA. Following his departure from the association, Farry occasionally acted as a media pundit, and latterly worked for building firm akp Construction.

Another side of Farry which was not widely known was his quiet devotion to Cambuslang Rugby Club, of which he was a long-time member. He assisted the club greatly with its sponsorship activities and helped in the redevelopment of the club premises in recent years.

Former SRU president and Cambuslang stalwart Jim Stevenson, said: "He was a dear friend and I will miss him greatly. He was the perfect host and great company to be with, not at all like his old image.

"Rugby was his first sport and we will miss him very much at the club.He was one of life's gentlemen, and those who have remarked on his undoubted talents as an administrator were absolutely correct.

"He was also a great family man and devoted to his wife and children."

Scottish FA president George Peat said: "He was a renowned administrator in Scottish football, both for the Scottish Football League and the Scottish FA, and his work was respected in Uefa and Fifa circles."

Farry collapsed at lunchtime on Wednesday from a heart attack. He was taken to Hairmyres Hospital but did not recover, dying with his family around him.

Jim Farry is survived by his wife, Elaine, and children Alyson and Euan.

MARTIN HANNAN

11 Novembeh

BUCKINGHAM PALACE

The Queen received the Bishop of Chelmsford (the Right Reverend Stephen Cottrell).

The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh gave a reception at Buckingham Palace for winners of the 2010 Civil Service Awards.

The Duke of Edinburgh planted a Cross of Remembrance in the Royal British Legion Field of Remembrance at St Margaret's Church, Westminster Abbey, and subsequently attended a service at the Grave of the Unknown Warrior in the Abbey, London.

His Royal Highness, grand president, Royal Commonwealth Ex-Services League, chaired a council meeting at Canada House, London.

The Earl of Wessex opened Q3 Academy, Sandwell and laid a wreath during the Armistice Day Service in the Memorial Garden.

His Royal Highness, patron, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, attended a lunch in celebration of their 90th anniversary, at the International Convention Centre, Birmingham, and afterwards attended the 90th birthday concert at the Symphony Hall.

The Countess of Wessex, patron, Sir Oswald Stoll Foundation, re-dedicated the Memorial at the Chiswick War Memorial Homes, London.

Her Royal Highness, patron, Tomorrow's People, attended the Awards for Achievement at Clifford Chance, London.

The Princess Royal, president, World Horse Welfare attended the Annual Conference at the Royal Geographical Society, London.

Her Royal Highness, president, Victim Support, presented the National Volunteer Awards at the British Museum, London.

The Princess Royal opened the Lord Ashcroft Gallery and the Extraordinary Heroes Exhibition at the Imperial War Museum, London).

CLARENCE HOUSE

The Prince of Wales visited Weald and Downland Open Air Museum, Singleton, to commemorate the 40th anniversary.

The Duchess of Cornwall, patron, the Wiltshire Air Ambulance Appeal, visited the Mary Howard sales at Hullavington Airfield, Chippenham.

KENSINGTON PALACE

The Duke of Gloucester attended the service of remembrance and afterwards took the salute at the Armistice Day Parade at the National Memorial Arboretum, Alrewas.

His Royal Highness, president, British Expertise, attended a dinner at the Institute of Directors, London.

The Duchess of Gloucester departed Gatwick Airport for Bermuda

ST JAMES'S PALACE

The Duke of Kent unveiled the restored World War One Memorial at All Saints Church, Sunderland.

His Royal Highness afterwards visited the Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens.

The Duke of Kent visited Thornhill Business and Enterprise School, Sunderland.

His Royal Highness, president, attended a concert given by the Royal Choral Society in Southwark Cathedral, London.

THATCHED HOUSE LODGE RICHMOND PARK

Princess Alexandra, honorary patron, American Associates of the Royal Academy Trust, attended a gala dinner at the St Regis Hotel, New York.

 
 
 

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