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SFA all at sea over "Bevvygate"

Jim Spence | 16:16 UK time, Friday, 3 April 2009

When is a matter which is closed not really closed? Ask the SFA.

In their Alice in Wonderland world, words mean what they want them to mean, not what you and me think they mean.

Yesterday, chief executive Gordon Smith's statement on 'Bevvygate', the now-infamous drinking debacle by members of the Scotland squad, concluded by saying: "We now consider this matter to be closed."

However, if a week is a long time in politics then 24 hours is an eternity in the world of Scottish football's governing body.

Today, the SFA president George Peat decided that the matter was not closed at all and promptly ordered an investigation into the 'Bevvygate' affair.

Having been so ordered, swift justice followed, with a walk along the plank to international oblivion for the Rangers pair of Barry Ferguson and Allan McGregor.

The Scotland captain and his team mate were finally fed to the sharks after a week of SFA to-ing and fro-ing on the high seas of indecision.

Celtic's legendary winger Jimmy Johnstone was famously involved in a drunken escapade with a rowing boat at Largs, but even the master of the mazy run would have been all at sea with the SFA's erratic decision making, which saw the pair first demoted to the bench, then allowed to remain with the squad, and now finally marooned from the international set-up for life.

It's enough to make you wonder whether some of the industrial quantities of drink allegedly consumed by the players was siphoned off to the cabins of the governing body's senior crew members.

Just who is steering the ship here? The chief executive, the president or the manager?

Because no sooner is one course set than another hand appears on the tiller. One minute the matter's closed, the next it's open again.

In case anyone has forgotten here, we are trying to qualify against swelling odds for the World Cup finals next year. It's bad enough that certain players chosen for their leadership skills forgot that football is a team game, without the SFA captain's acting like singlehanded yachtsman and going solo, and in the process, destabilising a ship already rolling perilously.

That said, the SFA have finally made the right decision in deciding that Ferguson and McGregor will not represent Scotland again.

Rangers have rightly concluded that the actions of the duo demeaned a famous and proud club, and fell considerably short of the standards expected at Ibrox. They have stripped Ferguson of the captaincy and suspended the pair.

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It's probably fair to assume a degree of uncertainty over their long-term futures at Ibrox.

The SFA's shambolic but belatedly correct response, to their highly unprofessional behaviour, finally sends the right message; representing your country is an honour which should not be demeaned by drink or undignified behaviour.

Too many other good professional players in Scotland will never get a chance to wear the Scotland shirt that they would have treated with the dignity it deserves.

Ferguson and McGregor now find themselves permanently adrift from the international scene, but equally the SFA too have been all at sea in this badly handled affair.


  • Comment number 1.


    When will the full story of what happened at Cameron House come out? I know from hotel staff that it hasn't yet, but it seems to be being swept under the carpet. Who are the media trying to protect?

    Please lets get this out in the open, punish the players involved, and move on to allow the manager of Scotland to focus on football and qualification for the World Cup. All this cloak and dagger reporting is hopeless...journalists should be reporting the news not creating it!

  • Comment number 2.

    Jim, totally agree.
    They have arrived at the right decision. Unfortunately the manner in which they arrived has left them looking fragmented.

  • Comment number 3.

    I understand that their is debate as to the nature of the offence. Were the gestures aimed at the tabloid press or the tartan army?
    First, there are simply no gestures offensive enough, for right minded people to adequately express their loathing of this part of the media.
    Secondly, offend the tartan army???? Have you seen these clowns and how they cringefully embarrass our nation every time they set foot overseas? If offensive behaviour is a sine die matter, Hampden should be an empty void at all future internationals.

  • Comment number 4.


    I will accept your point about the Scottish Footballing media - a bunch of parasitic hypocrites.

    The Tartan Army offensive??? They might be a caricature, but they are hardly offensive. It's better to be seen swaying drunkenly in a kilt and red nylon wig while singing a song from "The Sound of Music" than drunkenly fighting, hurling missiles or chasing Policeman.

  • Comment number 5.

    Good opening blog Jim. The lack of a single leader at the SFA seems a bit like a microcosm of how the game is run in Scotland: SFA, SPL, SFL, Juniors, Highland League,...

    High time the whole thing was streamlined and run with the following simple priority: Developing world class players. Everything else flows from there: better players means better football and more punters coming in, hence more money; better players means more success in Europe; better players means guys playing for Bayern Munich, Inter Milan, Real Madrid and Man Utd, instead of (no disrespect!) the Old Firm or Championship clubs; better players means Scotland not hanging on at home against Iceland.

    This has to get past the vested interests of course. But ask yourself, what have the vested interests done for us lately? What great successes have we got to look back on and celebrate, compared to the likes of Sweden, Denmark or Holland?

    PS Nice to get a perspective from the East coast for once ;o)

  • Comment number 6.

    goofysurfer: Please the share the full story with us.

  • Comment number 7.

    Can't believe the hypocracy of the tartan army - having a go at two of argueably our best players for being drunk the night after representing our nation - i'm not excusing their behaviour (or that of the mysterious other players that were involved that night who got away with it) but the tartan army are ALWAYS drunk representing our nation all over the world! There is something inherantly wrong with a nation who take pride in our national stereotype of beinging drunken idiots. The powers at be have totally overreacted as well making the whole situation even more embarrasing - Why were the players allowed a drink at 4am in the first place? Why ban two of our best players for life when we are trying to qualify for a World Cup? Why were the players not just sent home immediately from the squad, meaning that the whole V-sign thing would never have happened? What would you do if your own 'fans' booed you like that? Gary McAllister quit after similar treatment. All is all it just makes a bad situation worse, makes the country a laughing stock, ruins the careers of two good (but not particuarly intellegent) footballers, and damages our chances of making it to South Africa. Good job everybody!

  • Comment number 8.


    Ferguson WAS one of our best players and McGregor is a decent player. The thing is Scotland (and Rangers) have replacements available - in the case of Scotland the replacements are superior players.

    As for sending them home instead of allowing them to sit on the bench - as Bluto almost says in the film "Animal House" - the SFA messed up, they trusted them.

    George Burley trusted the players to have a quiet drink to unwind after the journey from Holland, he then trusted them to act like adults on the bench. With hindsight this trust was misplaced, but the bulk of the blame for this mess lies with the players, not George Burley - Barry Ferguson was Scotlands Captain FFS.

  • Comment number 9.

    The SFA are still stuck in the 19th century, shamateurism and all.

    The game in Scotland is crying out for root and branch reform at all levels, but the blazers at Hampden seem more interested in preserving self interest than with developing football.

    Lets be clear this latest drunken escapade was a result of the endemic drinking culture within the professional game, something that should have been stamped on a long time ago, but it did highlight again the continued weakness of the SFA.

    George Peat does not have any foresight nor leadership skills.

    Gordon Smith is clearly out of his depth.

    George Burley simply lacks authority with clubs, players and fans.

    It is time the SFA embraced the age of modern football. It is time to stamp out alcohol abuse in the professional game. It is time to bring in a strict code of conduct for SFA officials, clubs, players and fans.

  • Comment number 10.

    I don't have any problem with the players having a drink as it was still 3 days before the next game but the sheer petulance and imaturity of Ferguson and McGregor is inexcusable. Having said that, if Jock Stein had been the manager or Alex Ferguson, etc, their feet wouldn't have touched the ground on the way out the door.

    I also heard a story yesterday from one of my friends who knew a couple who were staying at Cameron House when the Scotland squad were there last week. They are Rangers fans and were looking to get Barry Fergusons autograph for their 10 year old son, and I dare say a few of the other players (as you do). They met a few of the players in the corridors and obviously aknowledged them with a hello, but they just looked straight ahead and kept walking. They shrugged this off to begin with but the lady in question had promised her son that she'd try and get BFs autograph so she put a pen and paper in her handbag hoping that she would meet him again. She did and politely asked him to sign the paper for her little boy. BF replied "I'm too busy" and walked away. It wasn't just her or her husband but the whole hotel had noticed that none of the players had given any of the other guests the time of day and were thoroughly disgusted with them.

    To be fair she said that Steven Presley, Terry Butcher and George Burley were more than curtious so where do these players get off treating the fans like that. NONE of the current squad could lace the boots of most of the players who have gone before them, indeed half of them don't even play in the top leagues so they could hardly be classed as the top of their profession. I have played and loved football from the time I could walk but am really starting to get disillusioned with the whole thing and that story hasn't changed my mind. I've met a few top class footballers in my time and none of them has ever looked down their noses at me and the guys I'm talking about WERE at the top, so these 3rd rate excuses should take a long hard look at themselves.

  • Comment number 11.

    Did you end the story when you where done writing or when you ran out of marine metaphors?

  • Comment number 12.

    is this a replacement for Chick Youngs blog? Please make it so! A decent improvement. Although redandblack has a point. Welcome to metaphortown

  • Comment number 13.

    #11 & #12

    Indeed! Sea-sick is better than pig-sick of Chick!

  • Comment number 14.

    Loving the metaphors Jim. The SFA 'ship' is a good analogy. And great to hear an east coast slant on events. The West Coast bias of the Scottish meed-ja reminds me of the English bias of the BBC. Time for Glasgow and Lanarkshire to wake up to their hypocrisy on this.

  • Comment number 15.

    I find myself in agreement with 11. as well - maybe one too many marine metaphors... particularly the 7th paragraph to the point that I've absolutely no idea how it was meant to relate to ferguson!

    anyroad, i just wonder if the player could have been protected more by the sfa. ferguson and mcgregor are gonna have to put up with idiots in the streets shouting abuse and flicking the v's at them.

    but seriously, when it comes down to a booze culture or whatever, i have to think that scottish football is at least 15 years behind the rest of europe when it comes down to this. I can't see players of germany, spain, italy or portugal being allowed to let their hair down like this, or perhaps, even thinking about doing it for themselves.

  • Comment number 16.

    Isn't what happened before the Vs incident largely irrelevant - in that it was deemed appropriate to drop the players and they should have accepted that. It is their arrogance and immaturity that now mean they won't play for Scotland again. In the case of Ferguson, it is a lose-lose situation. Even if we have replacements, we could do with having him available. In the case of McGregor, I think he might have been labouring under the impression that he's ever going to be a first choice for Scotland.

    It's a terrible shame that in 2009, with Scots doing really well in World sport, that in our "National" and richest sport such unprofessionalism is still rife.

  • Comment number 17.

    Good blog Jim. Glad to see an alternative to Chick, even if you are an arab.

    The Rangers fans comparing the actions of Ferguson and McGregor to the Tartan Army are clutching at straws. The Tartan Army are a group of supporters who have won Fair Play awards and are generally welcomed wherever they travel. Crucially, they are not professional sportsman and none of them are captain of their country. Take the blinkers off and try and realise they are not comparable.

  • Comment number 18.

    Welcome Spencey!

    Great to have another blog covering Scottish Fitba.

    As for Bevvygate? The bevvy wasn't the issue, the gestures were. In my view,the correct action was taken by club and country over the gestures, but the SFA must look hard at what created bevvygate.

    How much of a bevvy were the players allowed? Did Burley honestly trust the players to have a few and off to bed? What is in the new code of conduct? Have the SFA banned bevvy after games for players? Will the other alleged bevvied players be named, shamed and disciplined?

    Burley must have some blame attached for his part in the thing and the whole saga suggests that he's maybe not got the respect of the Scotland Squad as quite a few ripped the backside out of his 'have a few beers' at cameron house.

    I look forward to reading the SFA's report over bevvygate.

  • Comment number 19.

    Ahh, here we go. If one takes issue with the antics of the TA one is automatically pigeon holed as a Rangers fan. I made no comment in favour of or against the players actions. I merely pointed out the rank hypocracy of football fans, who oose bile and poisonous filth at players, every match day, the length and breadth of the country, being mortally offended by primary school behaviour.

    Come on guys!!!

  • Comment number 20.

    You conveniently missed out the person who is actually steering the ship - Walter Smith.

    The SFA were all for backing the players against Burley - until they got the call from Walter - "we're cutting them loose".

    Suddenly all change. Coincidence? - mibbes naw...

  • Comment number 21.


    You seem to be jumping to conclusions here.

    I did defend the Tartan Army by basically saying it was better to act like drunken buffoons then drunken hooligans - you seem to assume that my latter description of drunken hooligans is a description of Rangers fans. How oddd!

    The difference between the behaviour expected of the Football Fans and the behaviour expected of Professional Athletes should not need too much explanation.

  • Comment number 22.

    I'm bored of this story, seems to take the attention away from a poor Scotland performance. Burley should join Ferguson and McGregor in exile.

  • Comment number 23.

    From my perspecitve the events of the last week have re-enforced my view the power in Scottish Football is with the old firm and not with the SFA. The fact that Rangers acted first speaks volumes to me. Had Scotland banned the players before Rangers had taken their own action I suspect the reaction within the media and Rangers support might have been different.

    So the answer to who is is steering the ship certainly isn't the SFA.

    Moving aside I think Burley has taken has taken his fair share of flak over the Sunday morning beer fest and had he been the manager of a school team then I would expect this. However he isn't. These players meant to be grown men and professional sportsman who are responsible for their own actions.

  • Comment number 24.

    It appears that there are a few questions oustanding on this affair, and as everyone seems more than eager to punish the guilty perhaps a full report on this is required.

    For example why were the others involved not punished?
    Why did the manager and SFA feel it was appropriate to expose Ferguson and McGregor?
    Having exposed Ferguson and McGregor why were they then put on the bench to ensure that they were fully exposed to the media and of course the unhappy fans?
    Many speak of great managers, please name one who would have set two of his players up to face such a situation?
    Why were Rangers not angry at this singling out of thier players and public punishment while others escaped Scot Free?

    It is regretable that they made the silly childish gestures, the next time you are stressed and left with no where to go exposed as they were let us see how you react, it is very easy to show stress in this childish way and had they been able to avoid this I think the real villan of this George Burley would have been exposed, he sanctioned the drinking then left them, he singled out players and publicly humiliated them WHY? He has shown he is not the leader top players need, he should support and motivate he has failed AGAIN.

  • Comment number 25.

    The Story of what happened is not clear. My understanding is that they went on a bender, were supposed to have apologised then made the stupid signs behind the managers back whilst on call for their country. Then they seem to have apologised again.

    The people who are defending them seem to be the other players, but how do you explain these gestures to kids? Ferguson and Macgregor should have known better. Sack them and hopefully this will be a water-shed for the national team and install some discipline within the ranks.

    Most people never even get a chance. They got two and squandered both.

  • Comment number 26.

    Re 24

    You make some good points, but one thing needs to be clear, it was not the SFA that exposed ferguson and Macgregor, it was the press. They have been in chharge of events from the start. It is difficult to imagine more inept handling of this than what we have seen from the SFA.

    Rangers have some dignity in the way they have handled this, spoke to both players, considered and then took action. One swift decisive move.

    The SFA meanwhile have dithered, failed to ask the right questions, basically just made very mistake possible. George Peat should have said stop, lets get a proper investigation, let everyone calm down, get the facts and then act. In the same way for every player involved.

    George Burley also has questions to answer. Why did he leave the bairns on their own when they can obviously not be trusted? Why did he make a decision to send them home and change it apparently at the request of the players? Who is in charge? This is not he first unfortunate incident of his reign, he looks like a weak and ineffectual manager.

    Also agree with the comments about reform of Scottish Football. I coach youngsters, the whole system is shambolic, full of people with vested interests, no wonder kids go elsewhere like Rugby and Golf where things are porperly organised. Gordon Smith did a lot of talking before he went to the SFA, he has done precious little since he went there.

  • Comment number 27.

    It would seem that Scottish players, like Michael Stewart, feel that this is just a storm in a tea cup.

    "Inevitably in a year's time, or whatever, things will die down and I wouldn't be surprised if it was to happen (Ferguson being capped again)," Michael Stewart told BBC Scotland, "I don't see any reason why it shouldn't happen in the future."

    There is no way Ferguson can make a return because the SFA will be utterly humiliated if such an event were to happen. Further the Tartan Army would not accept Ferguson.

    All Michael Stewart has done is condone the behaviour of Ferguson and McGregor. It would seem that no lessons have been learnt by other players in this matter. Now that is depressing for it doesn't forbode well for Scottish football.

  • Comment number 28.

    If Scott Brown had been properly dealt with last week, would he have appeared on a tabloid front page this morning?

    There's a real problem with some of these guys. What became public last week, one feels, was a mere scratching of the surface.

    Any responsible manager of a football club would surely now think twice before letting impressionable, young, talented players anywhere near the Scotland team, where they would mix with questionable elements within the current squad, including "management" which appears to lack control and discipline, and to be weak and inept at every level.

  • Comment number 29.

    Nice one Jim

    The punishment for this idiocy was far too harsh surely? Two good players (who will be missed no matter what folk say) banned for life? Just wait till Gordon gets an injury....what, David Marshall? Langfield? I don't think so! And i can't see anyone bringing the composure to the midfield that Barry does (Brown is good but like a bull in a china-shop)

    And all this when surely the focus should be on making the squad as strong as possible for qualification? Nice one

  • Comment number 30.

    Personally, I am a fan of both Ferguson and McGregor with McGregor in particular having more to offer Scotland in the years to come. However, their actions were inexcusable. Whether their gestures were aimed at the fans, the media, or just everyone in general is irrelevant. They were premeditated and to think that they would escape punishment is unimaginable. Either they thought they were too important to be dropped or they didn't think they would face any sanction. Either way, remarkably stupid even for professional footballers.

    Once last thought, Burley has a reputation as a drinker himself and allowing the players to have a drink before going to bed seems to suggest that he favours "the team that drinks together, wins together" mentality which may have had its place in football but certainly not in the modern game. By European standards, we have an average squad and our best chance of qualification would come from a united team working hard playing disciplined football and being difficult to beat. Burley's reign is in disarray and he doesn't seem to be able to create the unity required to progress to the World Cup.

  • Comment number 31.

    I think that what has not been spoken about properly is the fact that as Captain of Scotland ,Ferguson should have been ensuring that the players in the bar were not overstepping the trust line and I would have expected a Captain (or Team Leader) to have been rounding them up and chasing them to get to their beds after an hour or so.He was Captainn On and Off the Park and a part of the Management structure,something he clearly had not thought about.

  • Comment number 32.

    Right, so thats Ferguson, McGregor, McCulloch, Boyd, McGeady and McCarthy all not playing for Scotland because they are not happy about the way they have been treated by the SFA (i know that different circumstances surround most of these cases). From what i hear, the 2 latest drop outs were verbally abusing big Pressley when he told them to go to bed at lunchtime the next day. I think that warrants the punnishment that Burley gave them. I dont think i would ban them for life for having a few too many beers, especially after the manager okayed it first, unless they said something out of order. in that case its a totally different story.

    As far as im concerned, they can all GTF as id give anything to play for my country. as far as the national team is concerned, we could use ferguson as he's our best midfield player. anyone who's been to a scotland game in the last 2 years could tell you just how good a job he does for the team. mcgregor is no great loss, neither is mcculloch. boyd would be handy in games like the last one, but id never have any faith in his ability to score against a decent team so no loss their either. mcgeady and mccarthy, away and play in the Eircom league if you dont want to be part of the scotland set up. i know all thats been said about these boys but, seriously, if they wanted to play for scotland then why didnt they wait. or even give us a call (thats aimed mostly at mccarthy).

    Rant over, sort this mess that we call scottish football out and start building some teams that the younger players actually WANT to be part of.

  • Comment number 33.


    "away and play in the Eircom league if you dont want to be part of the scotland set up. "

    So should we just kick all the foreigners in our game back to their respective countries as they too are showing no willing to be part of the Scotland set up?

    You seem to have some interesting points, maybe i'll join you at the next BNP rally to hear more.

  • Comment number 34.

    Why not make Barry Ferguson and Alan take part in community service, perhaps at a rehap clinic for alcoholics or spent a weekend in an A&E to see the problems of alcohol abuse
    Thats the best punishment
    Stop complaining about there wages and use them to everyone elses benefit


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