Scottish Cup sponsor’s fury at John Hughes no-show

John Hughes' failure to show up at Hampden angered William Hill. Inverness sent Ritchie Foran and Russell Latapy instead. Picture: Steve Welsh
John Hughes' failure to show up at Hampden angered William Hill. Inverness sent Ritchie Foran and Russell Latapy instead. Picture: Steve Welsh
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INVERNESS Caledonian Thistle face censure from the authorities after manager John Hughes missed an eve of William Hill Scottish Cup final press conference scheduled to promote today’s final at Hampden.

The crowd will be far from capacity as Inverness meet Championship club Falkirk and efforts to sell the game were not helped by Hughes’ non-appearance. Rather than the manager and skipper as is normal on such occasions, the club were represented by assistant manager Russell Latapy and injured club captain Richie Foran, who has not played for over a year.

Graeme Shinnie, who has led the team in Foran’s absence, had been confirmed as joining Hughes for the press briefing, which opposition manager Peter Houston and skipper David McCracken conducted as planned on Thursday at Hampden.

Not only did Hughes and Shinnie’s non-appearance break with tradition, it also contravened competition rules put in place to protect the rights of commercial sponsors and broadcasters. In a joint statement released later by the Scottish Football Association and bookmaker firm William Hill, the no-show was described as being “an unacceptable situation, disrespectful to the competition and to one of Scottish football’s most valued sponsors”. Now Inverness risk being fined for such a flagrant breach of rules, as spelled out in the cup competition rules. The joint statement made clear the dismay at the Inverness pair’s absence, which was compounded by the lack of notice given.

“The Scottish FA and the sponsors of the Scottish Cup, William Hill, are extremely disappointed by the failure by Inverness Caledonian Thistle to present their manager, John Hughes, and captain, Graeme Shinnie, at the traditional manager and captain’s media conference at Hampden Park today,” the statement said.

“The situation is especially disappointing since both clubs have contributed greatly to the build-up ahead of the season’s showpiece event. Neither the Scottish FA nor William Hill was advised by the club that they would be unable to fulfil the Sponsorship and Broadcasting Matters, as defined within section 7.1 of the Cup competition rules.”

The SFA issue reminders to clubs of their media and sponsorship obligations before each round. Latapy and Foran were left to apologise for their roles as late stand-ins yesterday. “You should have found out earlier but it’s down to the club,” said Foran. “Apologies from the gaffer.”

Latapy felt that Hughes’ no-show was justified since it was a decision based on improving the team’s chances of success in this afternoon’s final, which is set to be watched by a crowd of between 35-40,000.

“The manager is taking the team in preparation for the cup final,” explained Latapy. “We wanted to do some final preparations so the manager is doing it. We discussed the last-minute preparations on Thursday and there were some extra bits and bobs we wanted to do and felt John should stay and do it.

“We apologise,” he added. “But in our mind, getting our players to focus on the Scottish Cup final is most important and that is what the manager is doing – and rightly so.