Farry
Scottish FA chief: change of heart
RealAudio
Jim Farry interviewed on BBC Radio's The World Tonight

Calls For Farry to Quit Over Saturday Soccer Match

The pressure on Scotland's Football Association chief executive to resign is increasing following the delayed decision to re-schedule Scotland's World Cup qualifier out of respect for Diana, Princess of Wales's funeral.

There has been widespread anger at the SFA's original decision to play on Saturday and the length of time taken to agree a rethink and play the match against Belarus on Sunday.

Clydesdale Labour MP Jimmy Hood is leading the clamour for Jim Farry's resignation, claiming it the only honourable course of action now available.

"If this is not a resignation issue, then what the heck is a resignation issue with the Scottish FA?" Mr Hood told BBC Radio.

He was responding after Mr Farry insisted there should be no question of anyone resigning because of the controversy.

McCoist
Rangers striker Ally McCoist refused to play on Saturday
The MP said he is thankful that the SFA finally switched the match from Saturday, the day of the funeral, but he is still furious at the SFA's initial intention to play on regardless.

"It is an act of such arrogance that beggars belief," he said. "I am really relieved that they have made the decision to move it. But I am still angry, as is the whole of the nation, at the way this has been handled by the SFA."

Farry has so far given no indication that he will bow to the pressure being put on him to go. He said on Wednesday: "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."

The SFA climbdown was immediately welcomed by the Scottish Secretary, Donald Dewar, who had been actively lobbying for the match to be rescheduled. Mr Dewar said: "The SFA have listened to the people and finally made the right decision. I greatly welcome their recognition of the depth of public opinion. Let us now put this matter behind us."

Mr Dewar had won the full support of Tony Blair for his efforts to pressure the SFA. Mr Blair's action came after Mr Dewar made known his disapproval of the Scottish Football Association's decision to go ahead with Saturday's 3pm kick-off at Pittodrie stadium in Aberdeen.

Mr Farry told BBC Scotland TV: "We all recognise with the benefit of hindsight that the escalating mood of the nation required us to sit back and contemplate and reflect. We did so, hence the about-turn."

Earlier, Belarus's ambassador to Britain, Uladzimir Shchasny, had made it clear that his country was willing to consider fresh proposals. He said changing the game could pose problems to the Belarus side but went on: "The Belarus side is open for discussion. One has to respect feelings of the people in this country, especially on such occasions."

Shchasny
Belarus ambassador: "One must respect feelings of the people"
A number of the Scotland players were very unhappy at the prospect of playing football on the day of Princess Diana's funeral. The Ranger's striker, Ally McCoist, asked not to be selected.

Mr McCoist told BBC Radio: "I don't think I could do myself justice, the team justice or the fans justice if I was involved on Saturday....I would have to qualify it by saying that if the game does go ahead Scotland won't have a bigger supporter than me and it's nothing against any of the other lads or anything to do with the Scottish team. It's just from a personal point of view that I don't think I could focus 100 per cent."

It was also reported that two other Scotland players - Rangers goalkeeper Andy Goram and striker Gordon Durie - were considering whether to pull out.

Had the game gone ahead, it would have been the only major sporting fixture on what has been set aside as a day of national mourning for Diana.

Scotland manager Craig Brown immediately gave his approval for the decision. He said: "The SFA have told me the game is now planned to go ahead on Sunday and I will have a team ready. In the circumstances I am sure it was the correct decision to take."