SFA chief executive Stewart Regan has accused his under pressure Irish counterpart John Delaney of “ludicrous” conduct ahead of Saturday’s crucial Euro 2016 qualifier in Dublin.
Delaney is facing scrutiny over the receipt of a €5 million payment from Fifa to prevent the Football Association of Ireland taking legal action over the Thierry Henry handball incident in their 2010 World Cup qualifying play-off tie against France.
Relations between the FAI and the SFA have been strained since last November when Delaney complained bitterly about the allocation of just 3,200 tickets to Irish fans for the Euro 2016 fixture at Celtic Park. Ahead of that game, Delaney claimed the SFA had created the potential for crowd disorder as many Irish fans would gain access to parts of the stadium designated for home supporters. The match, which Scotland won 1-0, passed off peacefully.
Scotland fans have been allocated 3,500 tickets for Saturday’s return match at the Aviva Stadium but a travelling contingent of around 10,000 is expected in Dublin. Many are believed to have obtained tickets for other areas of the ground.
Regan is confident there will again be no trouble this weekend and also delivered a verbal swipe at Delaney by insisting Scotland would never have accepted the Fifa payment in similar circumstances.
“It has been a challenging week for the FAI in lots of different ways,” said Regan. “I’ve always worked under the assumption if you haven’t got anything positive to say then don’t say anything – keep your mouth shut.
“The FAI have chosen to speak on a number of different fronts, recently and last November, and we’ve just got on quietly and prepared for the match and we’ll continue to do that.
“The one thing I will say is that words such as ‘tension’ and ‘security’ were used [by Delaney] last November and it was proven that Scotland fans, as we all knew they would, just got on with the game and intermingled with fans from Ireland and had a great night.
“There were no issues and we fully expect the same to happen again in Dublin. As much as we only have 5 per cent of the ticket allocation, we expect around 10,000 Scotland fans to be travelling to Dublin and we expect them to get access somehow into the ground and I’m sure they’ll have a great night.
“There was lots of scaremongering last November. There were no issues at the time and we fully expect there to be no issues in Dublin and we expect a great match.
“Scotland do things professionally and we do things the right way. It has been recalled recently that the SFA were asked to pay £75,000 into the then Fifa vice-president Jack Warner’s account for his personal use following the Scotland-Trinidad and Tobago friendly in 2004 when John McBeth was our president.
“The person who asked for the payment was sent packing with a flea in his ear and warned that if he didn’t, the police would be involved.
“As far as we are concerned, we play matches the right way and qualify – hopefully – in the right way. We would not be interested in having any debate over whether or not there was compensation due on the back of a refereeing error.
“It’s a ludicrous statement, quite frankly.”
Delaney snubbed the traditional pre-match formal dinner before last November’s match in Glasgow, an action Regan believes was insulting. But he is adamant there will be no retaliation by the SFA delegation in Dublin.
“We always turn up to official functions,” he said. “We do things the right way. We’ll be having discussions with our colleagues at the FAI and we will be behaving in exactly the same way as we normally behave.
“We kept our powder dry at the time in November. We didn’t make any comment on any of the criticisms that were levelled at us. We’ll continue to focus on the football. That’s what’s important this weekend, the football match. Football will do the talking.
“It’s a huge match for both teams. Scotland could really do with putting daylight between themselves and the Republic, so we’re hoping for a win.”
Regan believes reaching the Euro 2016 finals will be worth more than €9m to Scotland but is more concerned about the feelgood factor Gordon Strachan is on course to restore around the national team.
“The last thing we are thinking about is how much money it is worth,” added Regan. “That’s not the motive for the Scottish FA. The motive is to put a smile back on fans’ faces on the basis that we haven’t qualified for a major tournament since 1998.
“That’s what Gordon wants. That’s what we’re backing him to do and that’s what he’s got the team fired up to do. He’s probably done as much as Nicola Sturgeon has to put a smile on the faces of the people of Scotland right now. You’ll see that in Dublin on Saturday night.
“Gordon’s got a contract for this campaign. He’s accepted that his focus right now is on qualification.
“If he wants to stay, and if we qualify, that speaks for itself. I’m sure the board would back any discussions but at the moment it’s too early to even contemplate that.”
l FAI chief executive John Delaney has been urged to take a voluntary 50 per cent pay-cut as politicians in Dublin prepare to quiz him.
Members of the Oireachtas sub-committee on sport in the Irish parliament, which is due to meet today, are expected to call for Delaney to appear before them to explain the chain of events which led to Fifa’s controversial €5m loan in the wake of the Republic of Ireland’s World Cup play-off exit in 2009.
However, one politican, Tom Fleming, has challenged Delaney to agree to halve his annual salary, reportedly around €400,000 before recent adjustments, to bring him into line with Taoiseach – Ireland’s prime minister – Enda Kenny.
Fleming said: “He is getting twice as much as the Taoiseach of this country.
“It is unacceptable and it struck me that in itself it is within the parameters of the Fifa controversy.”