Northern Ireland fans and the Irish FA have expressed their disgust at yet another Uefa delay while they await a decision on whether the Euro 2016 qualifier in Romania will be played behind closed doors.
An announcement was expected on Friday, then pushed back to yesterday only for Uefa to state that a decision would not be made until this Friday - exactly two weeks before the November 14 clash at the Arena Nationala.
A full or partial closure of the stadium is possible following crowd problems in Bucharest during the 1-1 draw against Hungary on October 11.
The Romanian Football Federation may only be handed a fine but hundreds of Northern Ireland fans who have spent up to £300 on transport and accommodation for the fixture, as well as those who are thinking of making travel arrangements, are being kept in the dark. Irish FA president Jim Shaw said: "I can understand the frustration of the Northern Ireland fans and I share that frustration. We have let Uefa know of our feelings on this matter and it does not reflect well on them," he said.
Shaw added: “Not only does it not reflect well on Uefa, it harms the Irish FA’s image as fans will say we should do more but it has been out of our control and Uefa do need to look again at their procedures.”
Gary McAllister, spokesperson for the Amalgamation of Official Northern Ireland Supporters Clubs, said: “The fans are very frustrated and Uefa have shown a lack of courtesy not only to our supporters but to the Irish FA as well. They have been in contact with Uefa on a daily basis and it has been hard to get information. The case will not be heard until Friday when it should have been heard a week earlier.
“Uefa have gone about this matter the wrong way and they need to be more transparent. I understand there are legal implications involved in these cases but, while the fans are still hopeful of a positive outcome, they are understandably angry at being made to wait like this when the game is only two weeks away.”
After their match against Hungary, Romania were cited for crowd trouble, the setting off and throwing of fireworks and missiles and the use of laser pointers.
They also face an improper conduct charge because of the number of yellow cards in the match. Five Romanians and seven Hungarians were booked by Scottish referee Willie Collum.
Irish FA president Jim Shaw added: “I just think it’s amazing this issue has not been resolved. Fans will have already booked travel arrangements and they need to know what is happening. For those who are thinking of booking they are left in a difficult position.
“I don’t believe though that it will be a behind closed doors match. The game was not abandoned and I’m hoping our fans will be able to travel in big numbers.”
Fans’ chief McAllister added: “I would estimate that between 600 and 800 people are hoping to go to Romania.
“Fans are contacting the Amalgamation on a daily basis asking what do to as they are holding off booking flights and they haven’t been able to let employers know of their plans.
“Around 200 Northern Ireland fans were allowed into the Serbia game in 2011 after Uefa ordered a Euro 2012 qualifier to be played behind closed doors and I think it’s right that innocent fans are not punished.
“Uefa are a professional organisation and they need to answer questions regarding how they have proceeded with this matter.”
The Irish FA issued a statement yesterday which read: “Uefa have informed the Irish Football Association that its Control, Ethics and Disciplinary Body (CEDB) will not now hear the case relating to the recent crowd disturbances at the Romania v Hungary game until Friday October 31.
“As soon as the decision has been communicated to us, the Association will issue a further statement on this matter.”
Meanwhile, Romania have finally appointed a new boss ahead of their clash with Northern Ireland.
The Romanian Football Federation has named Anghel Iordanescu as their coach for a third time.
The 64-year-old first coached Romania from 1993 to 1998, leading them to the quarter-finals of the 1994 World Cup, and then from 2002 to 2004.