Battle lines were drawn between the opposing chief executives before last November’s European Championship qualifier between Ireland and Scotland in Glasgow when Delaney blasted the hosts’ handling of ticketing arrangements at Celtic Park.
While Regan largely kept his powder dry in the face of Delaney’s grandstanding then, he firmly took aim at Ireland’s under-fire chief executive yesterday.
In a Glasgow briefing ahead of the countries’ renewal of hostilities in Dublin this weekend, he lambasted Delaney’s actions in the wake of the Thierry Henry handball incident in the 2010 World Cup play-off between France and Ireland, when a threat of legal action against Fifa resulted in world football chiefs giving the FAI a €5million loan.
“It has been a challenging week for the FAI in lots of different ways,” observed 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.
“Scotland do things professionally. We play matches the right way and qualify, hopefully, in the right way and 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.”
The SFA gave Irish fans just 3,200 tickets for November’s meeting between Martin O’Neill and Gordon Strachan’s sides at Celtic Park, which holds over 60,000. At the time, Delaney, with no little irony, given that the FAI’s own ticketing system failed to reward some of the most loyal Irish supporters and led to protests from fan groups, labelled the SFA “the most unprofessional association Ireland have ever dealt with”.
Asked how that observation stands up in the light of Delaney finding a way last week to inadvertently put himself front and centre of Fifa’s global crisis, Regan bit his tongue somewhat.
“It’s what [other people] think that counts. Isn’t it quite rich? Those people who have listened to those comments will form their own opinions on what John Delaney has said,” he insisted.
“The one thing I will say is that words such as ‘tension’ and ‘security’ were used 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% 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.”
With relations strained by Delaney’s outbursts, the FAI delegation further soured things last November when they skipped the post-match function laid on by the home association at Parkhead. Regan, admitting that that move caused significant insult to the SFA, insists Scottish chiefs won’t engage in tit-for-tat behaviour this weekend.
“We always turn up to official functions,” he added. “We do things the right way.”