Smith hints duo could return
Uncertainty over lifetime ban offers hope to suspended duo
By Ashley Marshall. Last Updated: April 11, 2009 2:07pm
Scottish Football Association chief executive Gordon Smith has refused to confirm that Barry Ferguson and Allan McGregor will never play for Scotland again.
The Rangers duo were given lifetime bans for their part in an embarrassing saga which began with early morning drinking and culminated in V-signs while on the bench for Scotland against Iceland at Hampden Park.
But the SFA's attempts to draw a line under the incident have been undermined after Smith refused to rule out a dramatic U-turn over the decision to ban the pair.
Ferguson and McGregor had been caught indulging in an early-hours drinking session following Scotland's World Cup qualifying defeat in Holland almost two weeks ago.
Then they reacted to being dropped to the bench for the clash with Iceland with V-signs during the victory at Hampden.
The players have been suspended by Rangers for two weeks without pay and Ferguson has been stripped of the captaincy, but Smith has repeatedly refused to confirm they would never play for Scotland again.
He said: "I can't answer that because that's something that's going to have to be looked at in the future.
"But the statement that came out on Friday was quite clear that, at the moment, they will not be chosen.
"What happened on Sunday was a yellow card; what happened on Wednesday night was another yellow card.
"That results in a red card and that's what's happened here."
The SFA board were given full details of the affair by manager George Burley at a regular meeting at Hampden.
They fully backed his handling of the matter and confirmed there would be no further action taken over the events which led to Ferguson and McGregor being punished.
Four other players also stayed up drinking at Cameron House in Loch Lomond after Scotland's defeat in Holland, although they went to bed long before the Rangers pair.
But it was Smith's repeated refusal to confirm the ban imposed would be indefinite that raised the most eyebrows.
If Ferguson and McGregor were to return, they would be forced to sign up to a new code of conduct currently being drawn up by the SFA.
Smith confirmed an alcohol ban was being considered, though he defended the decision to allow players something to eat and drink when returning from an overseas trip, even at 4am.
The former Rangers forward said: "I know for myself how difficult it is - you can be very tired after the game but you can't go to sleep.
"There was food laid on - that was part of the sports scientists' advice, to put some food on for about 4am.
"They were told they could have a beer and go to bed."
Smith insists the SFA were not condoning a drinking culture by not taking any action against the four other players involved at the team hotel.