BBC BLOGS - Jim Spence
« Previous | Main | Next »

Let the children play

Post categories:

Jim Spence | 10:30 UK time, Saturday, 30 January 2010

Scottish football has to work harder at looking after our youth game.

Livingston, now owned by Gordon Mcdougall - a man with a genuine passion for the youth game, have had their request to allow their under-13 and under-15 sides entry into the Youth Initiative Programme knocked back.

It's utterly bizarre. Young boys denied the chance to play football at a decent level by those supposed to encourage them, despite the Livingston owner's assurance that the club would meet all costs involved for the criteria which have to be met at that level.

The decision was made by the Scottish Footall Association's Professional football committee.

They refused to allow the boys in to the set up after the recent winter break. This, mind you, is a league where no results are recorded and no positions are kept. It is there to give boys at pro clubs the opportunity to develop their skills.

livilegs595.jpgThe committee said their decision was arrived at "having reviewed the matter in the context of its potential impact on the current initiative Tier programme and past precedent".

What potential impact? Are the fixtures so set in tablets of stone that a bit of reorganisation could not have been done to allow boys and their parents, who've stuck with the club through all its dark days of administration, the chance to play, in a league that does not have any placings.

As for precedent, I was one of the journalists who, along with the honourable Darryl Broadfoot, then of the Herald, and now, in a quirk of fate, the SFA's head of PR, who took the SFA to task two seasons ago for throwing Dundee, Dunfermline and Ross County out of their performance league.

The pressure brought to bear saw them allow all three clubs back in after the winter break.

So much for precedent, and anyhow, surely precedent bows before the greater duty to our youth football and those making genuine sacrifices to keep it alive.

Livingston have produced fine young players like Graham Dorrans, Robert Snodgrass, Murray Davidson and Leigh Griffiths, who have all gone on to bigger things.

They also have a great crop of youngsters coming through at other levels, with their youth sides all coached by first team players who show a real devotion to the cause.

How can a committee supposedly charged with looking after our game's interests be so heartless? They have to ask themselves what they are in football for, the blazer and the position, or the love of the game.

With their cruel decision over the Livi kids I can only draw one conclusion...


  • Comment number 1.

    Our game at all levels is a joke. There is no point writing blogs about it, sorry.

  • Comment number 2.

    Maybe the SFA could use the £10,000 their terrible referees stole from Hearts recently to fund a few youth teams for a couple of years? At least then when another player gets wrongly booked or sent off, some good will come of it.

  • Comment number 3.

    Just the latest shambles to come out of the SFA, as the first poster said our game is a complete joke at the moment and the SFA have shown no willingness or ability to do anything to change it.

    We moan that our national team isn't as good as it used to be yet do nothing to encourage young players from developing.

  • Comment number 4.

    Jim, Jim, you're havering! one minute you're telling every kid to take the money and run and nexr you're telling the teams to develop them at no charge.
    You've lost it! and I notice you don't respond to comments that disagree with you! Finance (or lack of finance) only will decide who does the youth developing but if they listen to people like you who say "take the money and run" then their incentive is somewhat numbed!
    Come on, be brave and explain your train of thought.....if you can't then get out of the blog business. You set yourself up after all.

  • Comment number 5.

    In fact...looking back over your last few blogs, I don't think you read any of them. It's what you're supposed to do! This is the point.

  • Comment number 6.

    The SFA do appear to be a joke, the sooner this country gets a new system of managment for all levels of football the better. There are far too many people collecting a wage that seem to be more interested in 'jobs for the boys' than actually doing anything that could help our game. Its a shocking state of affairs.

  • Comment number 7.

    scotitalia, don't worry, my train of thought is still heading down the same line.There is no contradiction between kids taking the money and running and clubs developing them. Why ? because the clubs are not in it for altruistic reasons but to develop the kids to sell to the highest bider eventually. Are we not always told that every players has his price after all.

    And of course taking the money and running does not have to be taken literally as running of to another club. If a player's current club values him properly then simply pay him the proper going rate, then the only running he'll do is to deposit his new found wealth in the bank.

    Every labourer is worthy of his hire and footballer's are workers after all. Why would you expect the two young Rangers players mentioned in my last blog or any other kid making the first team to do the job for a tenth of the wages of colleagues round about them. Will they be judged ten times less harshly if they make a mistake, or do they have a tenth of the ability ?

    In terms of this blog on the Livingston situation, do I take it you agree with the SFA decision to deny the kids the chance to play football because of issues which are nothing to do with them.If so you should get fitted for your blazer right away.

  • Comment number 8.


    The SFA are a joke, oh by the way I know you read the blogs , but in saying that you still haven't sorted out the highlights for the lower leagues on BBC. The Dees lost yesterday and I couldn't go the match but it would have been nice to have seen them lose on some form of highlights package on the BBC. Jim come on I am becoming despondent now with the BBC, I pays me money and wants the lower leagues highlights. Do I have to call Jim Tranor, even though he probably doesn't know what lower league teams are.

    Anyway, the SFA could not organise a .......... in a brewery could they.Scottish footie is crying out for some form or reorganisation before it dies and no one bothers to go any more.

  • Comment number 9.

    Hey Bruce, couldn't agree more about the BBC. Virtually no coverage of lower leagues what-so-ever, and I doubt if this latest SFA gaff will see any air time.
    I recently complained to the BBC about lack of coverage. Guess what? - no reply. I've sent another two complaints since but if they think I'm going to go away without an answer they will get fed up before I do.
    Like you say we have to change. Incidently check out If you don't moan then you don't count seems to be the way of things these days. The upper levels of the game are indeed a joke but don't wait for the media to do their bit.

  • Comment number 10.

    On reading your past few blogs and their comments, I have to say that I agree that you are becoming somewhat inconsistent or even contradictory in successive blogs but for all I know you could simply be playing the Devil’s Advocate role in order to stimulate discussion.
    I do however, have to question the manner in which you and the rest of the media deal with issues in Scottish Football. Why is it that the lower division clubs receive so little attention from the media? Don’t tell me nobody is interested. There are plenty of stories out there but nobody seems to have either the imagination or willingness to put in the effort to find out, more like.
    When issues like this arise that are clearly at odds with the popular view, why aren’t you all barricading Gordon Smith inside Hampden until he gives you an answer? Why aren’t the media doing more to make the SFA answerable if not accountable, so that people can understand what is going on?
    And what about the clubs themselves, do they support the decision taken by the SFA over this?
    So if we don’t get changes as Bruce suggests, who in fact should be held accountable, the SFA or the Clubs?
    Had it not been for your blog I doubt if anyone would have heard of this issue via other channels within the BBC and like #9, I too complained to the BBC about the same lack of coverage. I’m still waiting on my answer.
    If these blogs are going to serve a purpose other than bitching, then I have to also agree that you should be answering more of the questions put to you. At least the more direct ones that is.
    Why is it that everything to do with our game is surrounded by this impenetrable barrier of secrecy? SFA, SPL, SFL, the Associations, the Clubs, media – it’s all the same. No wonder fans feel like personae non gratae and are voting with their feet.
    I’m sure I’m not the only person who would like answers to my questions. We all know that I won’t find those answers elsewhere, so come on Jim, show me what insight you can offer me and those others who are wondering just what is going on within the game at the top level.

  • Comment number 11.

    Ian, No coverage of the lower leagues. What, by me, the reporter who broke the story about Brechin being threaened with fines by the SFA for their pitch size. The reporter who broke the story about the SFA throwing Dundee, Dunfermline and Ross County's youth teams out of the performance leagues, a decision they then reversed after the subsequent negative publicity. The reporter who broke the story that Donnie Mcintyre was leaving the appeals committee of the SFA after allegations of gambling on football, and the reporter who broke the story about Stranraer almost going out of business because of debts, and now the reporter who is now breaking the story of the shabby treatment of Livingston FC. I don't think you can accuse me of not paying attention to lower league clubs.

    You write "Had it not been for your blog I doubt if anyone would have heard of this issue via other channels within the BBC", but they are hearing about this issue from the BBC on this very BBC blog. A story doesn't have to go on every BBC outlet to be story.

    As for Why are the Scottish press not barricading the SFA in, you'd better ask them. I'm only one reporter and can't be answerable for the actions or inactions of others.

  • Comment number 12.

    It is really, really dismal stuff. They are in it for the blazer, of course.

    All too often the game (both in England and Scotland) isn't focused on those playing it. We need more kids playing more football generally - not just at the elite level just playing for the fun of it.


  • Comment number 13.

    Touche, Jim,

    I know you highlight these issues and in fairness, probably more so than your media colleagues, but it is the lack of insight that the reporting provides which concerns me. It’s like a headline with no story.

    Take the SFA quote "having reviewed the matter in the context of its potential impact on the current initiative Tier programme and past precedent", I know we will both agree that this is pretty meaningless, so why is it that you guys (media, press or whatever distinction you want to make), who are supposed to be the professionals here, get a statement from the SFA that will make sense to those who are interested in how this decision might impact on their clubs.

    Why can’t you tell people that there is no agreed format that exists between the SFA and the clubs on how the clubs implement the Youth Initiative program? With no such strategy in place, is it little wonder that Livingston are at odds with the SFA.

    And what about the Livingston board, did they make any effort to find out if their efforts would conflict with SFA before they wasted time and money on it?

    You asked, “How can a committee supposedly charged with looking after our game's interests be so heartless?”.

    Is this accurate? As I understand things, the clubs are free to develop their own strategy and philosophy on how they participate in the Youth Initiative which beggars the question why are the SFA and the clubs so far apart?

    Are the rest of the clubs working together to close this gap?

    Anyone can pose questions and fans who are loosing patience can see for themselves that this yawning chasm exists. But if they feel like I do, it’s not the questions that are of real interest, it’s the answers that really matter but it will take a journalistic breakthrough on the scale of Watergate before the truth about Scottish football is exposed.

    “A story doesn't have to go on every BBC outlet to be story”

    I disagree. If it truly is a story on Scottish football then it should certainly merit greater coverage on BBC Scotland radio and TV. Not everyone has the internet and fewer still have the time.

    “I'm only one reporter and can't be answerable for the actions or inactions of others”

    Quite so. Which is why you need your colleagues to help out. What collective initiatives could you promote within your sphere of influence that raises the bar in the quality of reporting and depth of coverage?

    Rant over. But thanks anyway for your reply, it's a lot more than a lot of others i could mention.

  • Comment number 14.

    Thanks for the reply Jim. Thoughtful and professional. A dig in the ribs seems to work.
    I am so sorry Scottish football, with the biggest percentage of followers per capita in the world, has degenerated into a bickering free-for-all within it's own house. Jim, you mentioned a few months ago that Henry McLeish was going to do a proper audit on the game after reaching far beyond these petty shores for some ideas! Any news?
    As you know I am watching from foreign lands and I used to think that the English were insular and myopic so it grieves me to see so much pointless in-fighting. Get a life Y'all and go and see what we can learn from others (Croatia and Slovakia would be a good start). We once sent a man to Brasil called Miller who invented the beautiful game. Is it not time we learnt from others....please! Stop blaming everyone else....Football Associations in any country have never been it yourselves.

  • Comment number 15.

    scotitalia - I have to agree with your comments on the 'bickering' and 'do it yourself' but at the same time have to confess that I'm as guilty as the rest.

    Like you I spent my time abroad and didn't realise how bad things were till I came home and I was wondering if like me, you are perhaps somewhat insulated from the depth of feeling of hopelessness that's fueling this negativity against a 'do it yourself attitude'. There just isn't any fight left in the scottish supporter. The link in #9 is for a site that seems to want to counteract this failing but from what see, I don't think it will have any effect.

    What did they do in Croatia and Slovakia? They had the benefit (if you can call it that) of being forced into the sitiation where their only choice was to start again after the war there. I don't really know what happened but I would like to hear your views.

  • Comment number 16.

    I'm far from a fan of Livi, but the scenario looks like someone or maybe more than one "evening things up" ie Ridiculously harsh and organisationally poor decision to demote, followed by virtually no punishment for failing to turn up for the East Stirling game. Now a further "punishment" on the kids team. It will depend who is on the deciding comittees and their perception of the rights and wrongs, historically at Livi

  • Comment number 17.

    Sfmcftb - I think the difference is that I am still away and the only view on the state of the game is from internet, friends and stolen copies of the DR when I was in London. Then and now it just seems so insular and navel gazing. I still think that a lack of financial riches will actually be our saviour. When we return to the days when we exported home-grown talent. I don't think that Scots kids are born with any less talent than anywhere else (Italy, Spain, Slovakia or anywhere) but somehow their ability is suffocated soon after birth. There is no joy in their football. I am amazed at the amount of amateur and semi pro football that goes on in Italy. Every town has a proper ground with coaching and games every evening with local professionals and volunteers. (eg every Motherwell player should be out at every local school doing classes at least once a week) The kids learn their game on hard courts where the ball moves faster and reactions develop accordingly (like it used to when the JJ's of our world played in back alleys) There is also a greater participation by Seria A players in developing charity matches all through the year which drag in huge crowds and keep interest high at all levels of society. My last wish is to see summer football....The time has come to choose.....either keep old and failing traditions and fall further back down the ladder or revitalise the whole game from scratch. I would rather see old traditions die to see new a new tradition of success take its place. As for Slovakia and Croatia.......they started all over again with a clean slate and clean ideas because the traditions died a little bit more dramatically.

  • Comment number 18.

    Scotitalia - you paint a vivid picture the nearest I can relate to was as a kid playing for my local lads club in Arbroath. They were in the old 2nd division then. Every Tuesday and Thursday, a different two players would turn up and train with us. Occasionally we were invited down to Gayfield. We thought they were Gods and we were Supermen.
    It isn't quite so simple nowadays with the Protection of Children Act and Disclosure Scotland paraphinaelia. There is just so much in the way of forming these bonds, especially like the ones you have in Italy with their devotion to family and children. Maybe one day.
    Thanks for the reply.

  • Comment number 19.

    Youth development is a shambles in this country. We can no longer expect young people to learn the game independently on the street for a number of reasons including:

    1) Increased competition from Playstations etc - not much of a choice when the temperature is below zero, the wind is howling and the sleet is coming in horizontally.

    2) Kids playing football on the street these days will get an ASBO.

    3) Increased traffic volume will mean they will probably get run down.

    If they can no longer learn the game in this manner then we need to make sure the correct structures and resources are in place - this means proper coaching, astroturf and indoor pitces and properly organised youth football of the kind it seems Livi are trying to provide. At a time when budgets are tight and getting tighter many clubs are cutting back on youth football. Livi should be congratulated for trying to get more teams running.

    PS I must agree with Bruce in post #8 - it would have been nice to see the Dees lose on telly!


BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.