Chris Waters: Happy New Year to Stewart, he needs all the support he can get

I WOULD like to start these ramblings by wishing one and all a very happy new year.

Yes, dear reader, may your year ahead be filled with more happiness and enjoyment than you could shake a stick at.

One man who certainly strikes me as needing a few more new year good wishes than most is Stewart Regan, the former Yorkshire County Cricket Club chief executive.

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Ever since Regan left Headingley Carnegie in September to become chief executive of the Scottish Football Association, the SFA have hardly been out of the news.

In years gone by, that august body made headlines about as often as Lincoln City FC, the football team your correspondent has the misfortune to support.

But crisis has followed crisis at Hampden Park (as it invariably has at Sincil Bank), leaving Regan to admit he has done nothing but fight fire since taking up his role.

The fun and games began on his first day in office.

Regan found himself having to deal with an unholy commotion caused by a retrospective punishment dished out to Rangers' goalkeeper Allan McGregor for violent conduct in a game against Aberdeen.

McGregor was banned for one match for kicking out at striker Chris Maguire and Rangers were incensed it took 11 days for them to be informed of the decision, describing the SFA's disciplinary procedures as a joke.

Regan responded by ordering a "tightening-up of certain elements" and calling for improved "transparency and functionality".

So much for the honeymoon period.

Next came an even more unholy commotion – quite literally – when Regan sacked Hugh Dallas, the SFA's Head of Referee Development, for allegedly sending an offensive e-mail poking fun at the child abuse scandal in the Catholic Church by referring in tasteless terms to the Pope's visit to Scotland.

Dallas allegedly sent a transmission from his work account which included an image attachment of a school crossing sign with a silhouette of an adult holding a child's hand and the word "caution".

Beneath the sign were said to have been insensitive words referring to the Pontiff's visit – a development which angered the Catholic Church.

No sooner had that little episode been attended to than Scotland's referees went on strike in protest that the SFA were not doing enough to protect them from unfair criticism and questions over their integrity.

A few days later, Jim Sheridan, Labour MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire North, proved he is never a man to kick a governing body when it is down by calling for an independent inquiry into the SFA's machinations in an attempt to root out "bias or bigotry".

Regan retaliated by branding Sheridan's comments "divisive, grossly misguided and deeply unhelpful."

If that was not enough to be going on with before you have even worked out how the photocopier works, an alleged bribery scandal cropped up to further confound the former Yorkshire chief.

Investigations were launched into suspicious betting patterns surrounding Motherwell midfielder Steve Jennings's dismissal in a match against Hearts.

Jennings was shown a straight red card for using foul and abusive language to referee Stevie O'Reilly.

Concerns were raised when bookmakers noticed a number of big-money bets being placed on a Motherwell player to be sent off.

Jennings is now at the centre of an ongoing probe to discover whether there is any case to answer.

Reflecting on his baptism of fire in a recent interview north of the border, Regan said: "I think it has been tough in lots of different ways because it feels like it has been about fire-fighting.

"I have been told by colleagues on the board that they have never known a period like it in many, many years in football when so many big issues have surfaced within such a short period of time.

"I think the jobs I have done in the past, at Yorkshire and the Football League, there have been a high amount of public profile issues, quite a lot of controversy and difficult decisions to make and communicate.

"When I came here, I was asked by the board if I was able to deal with difficult situations and could I handle conflict if it was a situation with conflict at the heart of it, and I said I could."

Regan went on: "It has been a testing time, but, in many ways, the issues I have had to deal with feel like a test for me personally.

"That's the way I have viewed it, even if it hasn't been like that," he said.

"It feels like people were watching to see how I would deal with this situation or that one, and the way I have looked at it is to just look at everything objectively.

"Although there are 101 voices in one ear telling you how to do something and 101 voices in the other ear telling you to do the exact opposite, the only way you can deal with it is to look at it objectively, look at what the facts are, what the company policy is and then decide what is right for the long-term good of the game."

So, there you have it.

How Regan could be forgiven for casting a longing glance back to the comparably tranquil pastures of Headingley Carnegie.

Stewart, if perchance you're reading, a very happy new year to you.

As the song says, things can only get better!


IN keeping with the seasonal spirit of goodwill to all men, spare a thought for Ricky Ponting.

The Australia cricket captain, ruled out of the final Test match in Sydney with a broken finger, has been pilloried by all and sundry in the wake of England's Ashes triumph.

Indeed, it seems that practically everyone apart from Skippy the Kangaroo has rushed to put the boot into 'Punter' – the first Australia captain for 120 years to lose three Ashes series (although Australia, 2-1 down, have not yet technically surrendered the rubber).

Consequently, one of the most poignant remarks I have heard from a sportsman for some time came after England's series-clinching victory in Melbourne when Ponting reflected: "I hope I'm not remembered as the guy who lost three Ashes series."

So do I.

For Ponting might not be the finest captain who ever drew breath (as so many former players are fond of telling us), but he is one of the all-time great batsmen and, in my limited experience of dealing with him, a jolly decent chap.

We should treasure such players – not treat them with contempt.