Scottish FA's Stewart Regan on FAI, Fifa & safe standing

Scottish FA chief executive Stewart Regan
Stewart Regan was asked about several current issues at the Scottish FA's AGM

The Scottish Football Associations' annual general meeting saw Alan McRae elected as president, succeeding Campbell Ogilvie.

The member clubs also voted to further open access to the Scottish Cup, additional members of the SFA Council, to turn it into a congress, and reflected on a year in which the organisation experienced a turnover rise of 18% - a record amount.

For chief executive Stewart Regan, a period of relative stability at the SFA has combined with external challenges, not least the ongoing upheavals at Fifa.

Here are the main issues facing Regan at the end of another 12 months at the SFA.

Alan McRae

The former Cove Rangers chairman was next in line for the presidency once Ogilvie's tenure ran its course. He still had to be elected into the position and received the backing of enough of the member clubs, as did Hibernian's Rod Petrie in being confirmed as vice-president.

McRae has long been involved in the game in Aberdeen and is a friend of former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson. In his role as president, McRae will chair the SFA board, sit on the Professional and Non-Professional Game Boards, sit on the International Football Association Board and represent the SFA at Fifa and Uefa level.

SFA president Alan McRae
Former Cove Rangers chairman is the new president of the SFA

"Alan has been elected by the members and that's the great thing about football - it's a democracy," Regan said. "The members vote on who they believe is the right person to be president of the association.

"This is a position Alan has dreamed about for many years. He brings a lot of passion, energy, enthusiasm and interest in the role and I'm sure he will relish the opportunity to take on the position of president."

Republic of Ireland

Saturday evening brings Scotland and Republic of Ireland together again, with much at stake in Euro 2016 Qualifying Group D. For Ireland, it is essentially a must-win game, while victory for Scotland would leave Gordon Strachan's side with a clear advantage as the group approaches its final games.

Regan was reluctant to comment on the recent revelations that the Football Association of Ireland received a 5m euros payment from Fifa to head off potential legal action in the aftermath of Ireland being controversially knocked out of the 2010 World Cup play-off by France.

"I've always worked on the assumption that if you haven't got anything positive to say you keep your mouth shut," Regan said. "The issue is one for the FAI. It's not one I want to comment on. I think they will be reflecting long and hard on the events of the last week.

"If every team ever had a concern over a decision and tried to make a claim on the back of it there would be a queue down the steps from Hampden down to Aitkenhead Road.

Steven Fletcher and John O'Shea
Scotland beat Republic of Ireland in November and the two sides meet again in Dublin on Saturday

"We are going to abide by the rules, the laws of the game and the statutes of Fifa and Uefa and if we qualify we'll do it because we've won a match and qualified from our group."

When the nations met last November at Celtic Park - a game a Scotland won 1-0 thanks to Shaun Maloney's strike - there was a row over ticket allocation, with FAI chief executive John Delaney complaining that their allocation of 3,200 was not enough and concerns of possible crowd trouble if Ireland fans were able to get tickets for other parts of the ground.

This angered the SFA, although Regan avoided reigniting the row ahead of the Dublin game.

"The Scotland fans are some of the best in the world, we've said that for a number of years," Regan said. "Wherever they go they find themselves in different parts of the ground, they join in in good humour, they sing and get on and there is never any trouble.

"Back in November when we played Ireland the words 'tension' and 'safety' were used. That was a bit disappointing and as we fully expected there were no issues at Celtic Park.

"We've got around 3,500 tickets for the game in Dublin. I'm sure there will be a lot more fans in the stadium than that, I'm sure they will get on perfectly well with their Irish colleagues and I'm sure they'll have a great night."

Fifa

The collapse of president Sepp Blatter's reign at Fifa has been welcomed by Regan. The Northern Irish FA have raised concerns that changes in governance might threaten the home nations' standing within the organisation, with Britain still granted one vice-president role in the executive council.

Regan said the SFA will monitor events and urged former Manchester United chief executive David Gill to stand again for the vice-presidency role.

"It's very early days in terms of what has happened with Fifa," Regan said. "If you think about what has happened in this past week it is phenomenal to think of all of the changes that have taken place.

FA vice-president David Gill
Regan hopes FA vice-president Gill stands for Fifa's British vice-presidency

"There is a lot of thought to be had over the next few months and discussions to take place - not least about who the candidates are who are going to come forward and potentially replace Sepp Blatter.

"But also, as a group of British associations there will be time to reflect, consider the role of Fifa's British vice-president and discuss our own strategy going forward.

"It's very early to be even considering anything like [a plan to deal with a threat to the four home nations' independence]. There is no indication at the moment of any threat to the British nations.

"David [Gill] made it very clear that he wouldn't take up his position as British vice-president if Sepp Blatter was re-elected. He has reflected on that and made it be known his position will change. I do hope he stands. I've got a huge amount of respect for David Gill."

On safe standing

Celtic have been granted permission to introduce a safe standing area at Celtic Park for the 2016-17 season. The SFA's stance has been to support the initiative if it receives government and police support, although it has not yet been considered for Hampden Park, the national stadium.

A rail seat at Celtic Park
Celtic will trial rail seating

"I know that Celtic spent a lot of time talking with Glasgow City Council and also with the Scottish Government and police and we've always said that if all of those stakeholders were happy and there was no safety issues that could be possibly foreseen for fans coming into the ground then we would support it," Regan said.

"We look forward to working with Celtic and understanding the process by which they are going to implement safe standing.

"For Celtic it's all about safety. They were concerned that a group of fans were constantly standing at matches in seated areas. They had looked at what had taken place in Germany in particular and had seen how it could work very effectively over there whilst managing the safety issues that are raised so that is the proposal that they have put forward."

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