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Gordon Smith was in office but not in power

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Jim Spence | 18:46 UK time, Tuesday, 20 April 2010

What is Gordon Smith's legacy after his time as chief executive of the SFA? It's difficult to see what he'll look back on with any great sense of achievement.

His time was marked by the row over George Burley's disastrous reign and the lifetime ban of Barry Ferguson and Allan McGregor in the Boozegate affair.

And now an unseemly spat with Livingston FC over alleged simulation by one of their players. Ironically, it involves the video evidence which he championed but failed to persuade UEFA to implement.

There were no Machiavellian machinations which put noses out of joint but forced through the radical change he said he wanted.

Former SFA chief executive Gordon SmithIf the powers that be don't want change then they won't change and, in that respect, his time as chief executive has been fruitless.

The role of a chief executive includes among other things: leadership, judgement, organisation and - perhaps crucially - the ability to be a figurehead looked up to and respected by his or her peers.

But ultimately he also has to be able to deliver the vision of the organisation.

That is difficult if the organisation doesn't have a vision in the first place and many would argue that sums up the SFA to a tee.

Bizarrely, Gordon Smith may have jumped ship just at the very time when the SFA are waking up, blinking into a strange and bright sunset as a new reality dawns on them.

The McLeish Review (part one) will be aired next Monday and will paint a picture of an organisation which one source has described as "50 years out of date, institutionalised and in need of radical reform".

As chief executive, much of the fallout from the report would have landed on Smith's shoulders and rightly or wrongly he would have been pilloried for the perceived failings of the organisation.

However, Smith would surely have been supportive of most of the changes which will be proposed in the report and would have been happy to embrace them.

Gordon was in favour of change in the organisation and the pace of it, or rather the lack of it, is thought to be instrumental in his leaving.

The frustration at meeting self-interest round every corner no doubt tried his patience to the limit.

The SFA statement on his leaving was hardly a rousing vote of appreciation of his efforts in the job.

"On behalf of the board and all staff at the Scottish FA, I would like to thank Gordon for his contribution and wish him the best of luck for the future," said SFA president George Peat.

Peat's words were scarcely a ringing endorsement and surely indicated that there was no burning desire to retain Smith's services by the powerbrokers.

However, when the McLeish Review sees the light of day next week it threatens to be a no-holds-barred exercise and one which those with sensitive political antennae required to survive at Hampden should already be alive to.

It will hammer home some very uncomfortable truths and "take no prisoners".

The time for inaction is past. The fans, the politicians, and even the blazers know that the game is at a crossroads.

Something must be done and the review will outline what that is. Now there will be no hiding place for those resistant to change.

If public money is to help restore our national game then accountability in these tough financial times will be demanded by those picking up the tab, and that alone will signify a major change for those who run our game.

With Craig Levein's overarching vision of how to take our football forward, a new commercial energy in place along with a better communications strategy and a review promising radical change, the SFA may actually be on the cusp of becoming a better and more modern organisation.

Gordon Smith, it seems, has walked out the door just at the time when hope has finally entered the building.


  • Comment number 1.

    Thank god he has gone it was a stupid appointment a BBC pundit gets a high paid job at the SFA he has made a lot of mistakes from the first day and he deserves to be gone. Now all we need is a total reshuffle of the SFA and get scottish football out of the predicament that we are in....Good bye Gordon you wont be missed

  • Comment number 2.

    I don't know the guy but to an outsider, he seemed to be suspect to foot-in-mouth disease. Some of the comments he made about Burley or Boozegate for example, were ludicrous: illogical, inconsistent with what others were saying, and apparently in haste. And then there are the issues about referees having the final say, Livi and Robbie Winters and so on.

    So I won't miss him in the slightest.

    But I do think the SFA has to drag itself into the 21st century (some might say that even the 20th century would be an improvement). Surely the SFA is just the sum of the parts of the clubs - so come on clubs, get a grip.

  • Comment number 3.

    I might be the first but Gordon tried to do a good job. Let's go through his tenure and rate him out of 10 on a set of points.
    1) Summer football - Look at this season (snow, Fir Park, Easter Road etc.). - 10/10
    2) George Burley - Could have got better but at least he didn't leave for a club job unlike the previous two but didn't qualify for a continental tournament like the previous two. 5/10
    3) Boozegate - Two employees get drunk whilst at work excursion then turn up to training in no fit state to work then swear at clients. Employees sacked which is right decision. 9/10
    4) Craig Levein - Good choice hopefully long-term, hopefully not lured away buy (sic) plain traitorism (McLeish and Smith). 7/10
    5) Recalls - Bad execution, Smith had all the power and stupidly let previous misdemeanours go (a normal person who did what Ferguson and McGregor would never get job back). 0/10
    6) Diving - Crusade for right reasons. If he saw Winters dived he had every right to take it further. 7/10
    7) Goal Line Technology - Right noises not his fault iFab and FIFA are dinosaurs. 10/10
    8) Organisational Reform - Turkeys voting for Christmas unfortunately. Right noises pity there are dinosuars (Peatosaurus) at the SFA, The Old Firm at the SPL, and self interest at bottom of the SFL. 10/10
    9) Link between fans, game and association - Ex-player, Ex-agent, Ex-pundit. All three good points pity Peat and his cronies weren't more similar. 8/10
    10) Hope for future - Laid good groundwork hopefully it will not be in vain, to paraphrase 'Aye We Can'. 9/10
    Overall = 75% which is not a bad score especially since his Old Firm past could have skewed him a bit more. Would have been nicer to see him stay and the blazered lot go. Also to have a merger with SPL and SFL would have been brilliant.

  • Comment number 4.

    celtic fans be happay and you no why

  • Comment number 5.

    I wish Gordon Smith and his family all the best. An intelligent, articulate man, I support many of the initiatives he tried to deliver. He also projected as even handed a position as possible. A realist more than a radical, he did try and drag the SFA into the 21st century. Alas the decisions, appointments and rulings suggest that SFA is still struggling to get into the 20th century. An International recruitment drive is required if SFA wants to be taken more seriously than simply another branch of Rangers football club.

  • Comment number 6.

    Let's remind ourselves of the job spec:

    The chief executive of the SFA should have the following abilities:

    To develop and implement strategic and operational plans.
    To maximise revenue generation.
    Ensure sound financial management and control.
    He/she should most likely be an MD or CEO, or be an ambitious deputy.
    Will have a proven track record of success in leading a complex business."

    With that brief it's clear to all and sundry that he was never the right man for the job and it shouldn't be a surprise that his time at knowSFA was a failure given that he was grossly underqualified by the organisations own criteria for the post.

  • Comment number 7.

    I was beginning to think someone might have locked Henry McLeish in a Mount Florida cupboard, it's been so long since the heralding of his review.

    But Jim's hints about its contents have got me all-a-quiver. Let's hope there's the political will and might to translate its findings into genuine change.

    PS. respect to Smith for sticking his head above the retrospectively-suspending-players-for-diving parapet. I still think he's set a precedent on what is surely the best solution to the diving problem.

  • Comment number 8.

    Who is Jim Trayner going to blame the world's woes on now?
    (Try saying that after a few shandies)

  • Comment number 9.

    Think its a shame he has gone all things considered.

    He did have a habit of foot-in-mouth at times but an intelligent guy none the less and I liked the broad thrust of his tenure which was about tackling the cheats (or simulators!) and the introduction of video technology. Spot on. Unlike people like Jim Farry who was found to have been dishonest over the Cadette affair and should have been sacked, Smith was refreshing in many ways: media-savvy, willing to criticise UEFA and FIFA and supportive about new ways of structuring and packaging football. He brought an understanding from a player's and pundit's perspective that you expected would eventually run foul of the pen-pushers and small-club jobsworth's who wield power in the SFA. Looking forward to reading his account of life in the SFA. I think their lack of grace and appreciation at the end of his tenure really says more about them than him. Sometimes organisations need less of an emphasis on people doing the actual job spec as opposed to something more charismatic to drag the whole thing forward. Smith brought some of this and I'm just surprised he stayed around so long to be honest. I mean honestly, who is George Peat?

    The interesting issue is what the George Peat's (and the rest of the cloned blazers) of the SFA will do now? Can you really see these guys embracing a more modern vision of the Scottish game from the McLeish Report? Can you really see them tackling poor referee standards? They'll be back to checking their rule books, booking the foreign trips that Chairmen of Brechin wouldn't otherwise get, comparing the crease standards of their bowling club committee trousers and telling the rest of us how to run football. Tail wags dog!

  • Comment number 10.

    Gordon was a modern man who faced working with Scottish footballs controlling dinosaurs. I am surprised he stayed as long as he did his loss is understandable but regretable. I wish him well and thank him for trying to update the prehistoric controllers. You can't change the old dogs what we need are new ones.

  • Comment number 11.

    I have to agree - At times he talked a good game but his non-action will be what defines his time at the SFA.

    I cant help thinking that the SFA need an appointment similar to Adam Crozier's at the English FA back in 2000. Someone who is not all about self preservation and can come in a shake up the old boys network, rid the game of the dinosaurs and get it running the way a multi-million pound orgasnisation should be run.

  • Comment number 12.

    I really hope the SFA gets the right man in now, Scottish football is not where is should / deserves to be, and I for one would like to have the national rivalry in place (I'm English if you couldn't guess).

    This fella seemed ballsy to a degree that many are not; Boozegate & diving being two KEY issues which I would say he got right. I also wish somebody would come in and scrap the stupid tier system you've got, and I would even say make the divisions bigger and have less. I'm sure these arguments have been done to death by you guys and I don't know what the consensus is... just my £0.02 really.

    P.S. Can you get your new chief to reinstate an annual friendly between us & you please?!?

  • Comment number 13.

    Agree with Ross Quinn #3

    Decent enough job in some areas by Smith. he was a smallstep in the right direction.

    What we need is something that will wipe out the entire hierarchy in there so that we can start again from scratch. George Peat first to be affected, hopefully

  • Comment number 14.

    All the best to Smith’s folks I hope they make a recovery. As for Smith he was for me a failure as chief as the SFA granted it could have been mainly the “Blazers” fault that he achieved so little but if he had pushed through reforms of the back of McLeish report he could have been a hero, however we’ll never know now as he walked away. Perhaps the biggest crumb of comfort he should take as given the choice most fans in Scotland would rather have been shot of Peat than Smith.

    @ Ross Quinn

    1) Summer Football I’m all about that idea what has Smith achieved in vein, at 1st said nothing but no I the woman league is played in summer . 1/10

    2.George Burley- I agree with you a good bit on that but its a results industry, Burley was a disaster Smith appointed him and undermined . 4/10

    3.Boozegate/recall they weren’t sacked they were on the bench for the game after ( Vgate got them sacked), Smith not only chopped changed his line but also contradicted the manger. 3/10

    4.Craig Levin- Too early to tell but part of the optimism around him is he seems to be he wants to do the things we expected him to do. Also think he got the job cause he was cheap. 6/10

    5.Diving- I agree with the idea but of problems in Scottish football the most pressing one is Diving? Not an issue that should have been top of his list but at least did something though Winters incident poorly handled. 6/10

    6.Goal tech/ Video refs, nedded and right noises but no action taken. 5/10

    7.Organisational reform, he seemed open to t but what reform happened? Not much eh. 2/10

    8.Links btw fans, game and Association, by this do you mean ones he’s forged and strengthened? Or are we talking an overall suitability of him being a “Ex-player, Ex-agent, Ex-pundit”? on the former I don’t see how he’s done much but not messed up either so. 6/10

    9.Hope for the Future you got 9/10 I can I have what you’re on please at very, very, best 7 though IMO 6/10

    Over all 35/90. Aye Smith had some good ideas but bottomline made little or no headway on any of them. And while true that may have been others fault its mean he failed.

  • Comment number 15.

    Can't believe the number of people that seem to think he was an intelligent man. He was worse than Cameron, Clegg and Brown put together for saying what he thought people wanted to hear. In the end, he had several u-turns and made several high profile errors by opening his mouth before engaging his brain.

    Remember, he wasn't even as good as Chick Young on sportsound!!

    Don't let the door hit you on the back on the way out Gordon.

  • Comment number 16.

    If you didn't read newspapers or listened to phone-ins then what was really different during his time apart from the talk?

  • Comment number 17.

    #15, I don't think you could listen to him on the radio for all those years and not realise that he was an intelligent and articulate man. Yes, he appeared to have a big ego, but he certainly wouldn't be the first to suffer from that affliction. I'm sorry to see him go; I thought he was on the right track.

  • Comment number 18.

    So Jim,
    What are your thoughts on George Peat ? Or will you wait until he leaves ?

  • Comment number 19.

    There have been many, many suggestions on how to improve Scottish football. The same points have been made 1000 times by pundits, players, managers and fans.

    Even Smith himself came up with the odd bright idea.

    And what has been done to act on these ideas? Nothing.

    Spencey spot on by saying "It's difficult to see what he'll look back on with any great sense of achievement."

  • Comment number 20.

    Peats name is very apt. He has the fans browned off and does bog all for Scottish football.

  • Comment number 21.

    No Piorek I won't wait until George Peat leaves until offering my thoughts on the SFA president, who now of course has assumed the powers of the chief excecutive.

    I think anyone who is to be president of a major footballing or sports body should demonstrate publicly what his or her abilities to do the job are.

    George Peat is no different from past presidents or probably future ones in that regard. There is no democratic and open forum for subjecting would be SFA presidents to public scrutiny in terms of ability and qualifications to do the job.

    They should have to present their CV with qualifictaions and experience, a business plan outlining their vision for the organisation, and then be elected in an open and public manner.

    To my knowledge George has not done that and neither did any of his predecessors.

    As president it would seem incumbent on him to take some share of the responsibilty for appointing Gordon Smith who has now left, and also some responsibility for the unsuccesful George Burley appointment.

    But don't hold your breath on any of that happening anytime soon.

  • Comment number 22.

    I give you credit for the reply Jim. However, after ripping Gordon Smith apart you then direct all your attention to the un-democratic nature of the SFA and the possible lack of qualifications that Peat may have.

    Perhaps in future you may wish to pick apart his presidency .

    I do however, agree to your criticism of the selection process and lack of transparency .

  • Comment number 23.

    Like the rest of the esatblishment selective reaction, why Livingston???
    and not Kyle Lafferty. Why only Celtic players called before video panel, why no Novo, McCulloch???

    Let's be honest they are all a bad bunch!

  • Comment number 24.

    Graham (23) it's been like this for as long as I've been alive (I'm 22). As a Hibs fan it pains me to say but we have to sell to the 'Old Firm' to survive.

    Gordon Smith had his good points (as I said earlier) but Rangers have always been the establishment team for as long as I can remember. The best example of this is the UEFA Cup final season.

    The fans destroyed Manchester, The season got all bunched up and moved (yet their fans claim they got NO help), They got Dundee Utd conned, Lafferty should have been hounded out of the country not the pitiful punishment he got, etc.

    They then have the cheek to complain that we (the other clubs) never challenge them. We should get rid and get pyramidical.

  • Comment number 25.

    Gordon Smith was simply on an ego trip.
    He had no new plans or ideas to overhaul scottish football but loved the spotlight the job gave him.


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