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Regan needs help in waging war on SFA red tape

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Jim Spence | 17:15 UK time, Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Scottish Football Association chief executive Stewart Regan (pictured with George Peat) needs the help of everyone in the Scottish game.
He was only appointed in July but must often have felt that he was captaining the footballing equivalent of the titanic.
The SFA, according to Celtic QC Paul McBride, is "institutionally dysfunctional". Last week's written judgement by Lord Carloway in the matter of Neil Lennon's appeal against a six-match touchline ban, found that SFA president George Peat's presence while the Celtic manager's fate was being decided by the disciplinary committee was "contrary to British principles of fair play". 

A first-year law student would have known that, so why didn't the SFA?

The case highlights the problems of an organisation that has been stuck in a time warp.

Regan's brief is to modernise and streamline - and he is set to put his proposals to the SFA annual meeting on 6 June. Now he needs the support of everyone who has a brighter vision for the game in Scotland.

The old committee structure has had its day and modern methods of working are long overdue. The Lennon case dealt with a man's livelihood and, while football does not want to start resembling the Court of Session, it has to respect people's rights.

There are several things that the chief executive needs to do. It was recently reported that he plans to restructure the SFA board, incorporating a professional and non-professional board and a main strategic board with responsibility for financial and other major decisions.

Disciplinary procedures will also streamlined, hopefully leading to the ending of a ludicrous situation where currently five committees deal with various disciplinary matters.

But there are other things that also need to be addressed.

The SFA is seen by many people as remote and Glasgow-centric.

The Scottish Government has held meetings around the country. Why shouldn't the SFA do the same?

Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Dundee, Inverness - and other places too - should all be included when it comes to SFA business.

It is the "Scottish" Football Association after all, not the "Glasgow" FA.

Greater involvement and participation from supporters groups and organisations like Supporters Direct would be welcome. And greater openness and transparency in decision making is a must.

In the wake of the report from former First Minister Henry McLeish pointing out many of the failings of the Scottish game, a vibrant national association is needed to restore the health of the game.

If Regan can push through the changes needed, he will have done Scottish football a huge favour. But he'll need a whole lot of people to put self-interest aside, in the greater cause of the national interest.


  • Comment number 1.

    Great Blog Jim and the single most important issue in Scottish football as far as I am concerned.

    Some time ago, Stewart Regan gave an assurance that he was taking the challenge very seriously and would be working very hard in the coming months to make the right changes for the long term good of the game in Scotland.

    He also emphasized the importance of having the space and time to deliver the changes and I for one was prepared to allow him just that.

    But the months are rolling by and we see nothing to show for it to date, so I wonder how long it will be before Stewart Regan is regarded in much the same contempt as his predecessors were, by the long suffering Scottish football fan.

    Everything in your Blog has all been said before and it now plays like a stuck record.

    That’s not a criticism of you – it is a measure of how inept the SFA is at delivering change.

    If Stewart Regan really is delivering change then perhaps it would be a good idea for him to climb down from his 6th floor ivory tower and tell us all precisely what he has achieved since coming to office.

    Nothing I suspect.

    I would feel more confident if Stewart Regan and the SFA as you suggest were to engage more at local level.

    SFA engage with the fas? – In your dreams kiddo.

  • Comment number 2.

    Good topic Jim but I feel it's got off to a bad start with the negative comments at #1.

    As you say Stewart Regan only took up his post in July and he's attempting to modernise an organisation that has been inept for 100 years,this can't be done overnight.
    He has to rid the organisation of the self-servers who have dominated for years and overhaul almost everything including ensuring that disciplinary system is fit for purpose which it clearly is not. It beggars belief that the SFA have staggered along like this for so many years without being found out.
    I say good luck to Regan, more power to his elbow in his attempts to make the organisation more transparent and actually do what it is supposed to do, i.e. support and promote Scottish football for the benefit of all involved.

    As for the charge that the SFA is Glasgow centric. What would you expect when they moved there headquarters to the plush new offices in the national stadium which is situated in Glasgow ?
    Apart from the folly of building a set of offices with a football ground added on that isn't large enough to hold the crowds that want to see showpice matches why did we need the stadium in the first place? Cup semi-finals, finals and internationals could all have been moved around the country depending on who was involved.

    I don't see what difference having meetings around the country would make, the public aren't allowed to attend.
    I do agree that there should be more interaction with the fans but question why this should be limited to Supporters Direct? The vast majority of fans who buy season tickets and therefore keep the clubs afloat are individuals who are seldom if ever consulted. I would rather see dialogue opened up with them.

    As I said above I wish Stewart Reagan every success, if he thought there was infighting at Yorkshire CCC he hadn't seen anything until he landed at the SFA.

    The man needs support if Scottish football is to survive never mind advance.

  • Comment number 3.

    Good blog Jim - a return to form!

    And then you went and spoiled it all with the 'Glasgow FA' comment. Only attracts the haters of all things in the Wild West, and there are many!

    And then in an act of utter folly you contrasted their mobility with that of the Scottish Government. They only came to Glasgow once Jim. And left quick as a wink back to douce and leafy Edinburgh content that the real problems lie elsewhere.

    I agree with Morbhoy though that Iain - sometimes the only voice of reason on your blog! - and possibly yourself too Jim are just being too pessimistic on this occasion. Apologies and no offence intended to either of you!

    Things rarely change overnight, especially not organisations looking to mesh and merge, and re-vamp their functional structures. McLeish's is a wieldy piece. Much of it the key movers in the SFA would have anticipated (and supported) but change takes time to get things right. Lots of stakeholders with vested interests to smooth and bring with you.

    I like the cut of Regan's jib as they say. Not an insider and more of a business understanding than Smith (though he must have put this train in motion!). A big plus. Walked into his new job and straight into Dougiegate. Handled the whole affair with a bit of aplomb and used the scandal as the pretext for change in the refs committee after removing Dallas. The 'bloody' part of the revolution!

    Jim Farry would have had Celtic hung, drawn and quartered, and Dougie and Hugh elevated to the role of national heroes.

    Often the better ways of supporting people concern leaving them to get on with their job and being patient, open and positive about change. We can be far too negative at times in Scotland about our football. Honestly, sometimes I think I live alongside a bunch of the clinically depressed.

    And you want consultation after all the change? Hopefully it will come Jim.

    If you think we have problems take a look at the situation down South. They want change in their FA and have just set up a parliamentary enquiry to ask themselves what sort of change they need. Bet the McLeish Report works out to be just as effective. And also at least we are ahead of the game compared to others.

    Vive la revolution (quietly, incrementally and effectively!)

  • Comment number 4.

    So let me add to the gushing praise about a return to meaty and topical subject matter.

    So the SFA is Glasgow centric! Actually Jim, Scottish Football is Glasgow Centric. There are more people pay on a weekly basis to support the Glasgow based teams than the total of all the other clubs added together. Further up the value chain Sky, ESPN et al recognise their cash base is also rooted in the Glasgow area. I'm sure the armchair fans will plead their emotional case case but I kind of like facts.

    I also, like Rob04 and Morbhoy like what Regan says and yes the proof of the pudding will be in the eating but thus far he seems to be tackling the right issues.

    I dont believe its the Glasgow centricity that's the issue. Rather its the way in which the tail is allowed to wag the dog when Chairmen of clubs who attract next to no support hold sway through a discredited and outdated committee system which is clearly not fit for purpose. The hypocrisy and self-interest must be replaced with open and transparent governance that meets the needs of the paying public.

    Would I consider myself one of Rob04's clinically depressed - not quite yet!! But I am pragmatic and I'm not sure we have arrested the downward spiral that is Scottish football far less found the recipe for growth and re-invigouration. Whatever the answer is Regan needs support and encouragement and all the stuff about location etc is just a red herring.

  • Comment number 5.

    I agree that Scottish football is Glasgow Centric because how else would a ten team top league improve Scottish football? Sky want 4 Old Firm games a season and so do their fans. At least a 16 team league would be the way forward.

    You say Regan will "need a whole lot of people to put self-interest aside, in the greater cause of the national interest" I agree completely but that seems to be the problem with Scottish football, everyone out for themselves and failing to look at the bigger picture. Change is needed all round but I wouldn't bank on it!

  • Comment number 6.

    Morbhoy @ #2

    Negative start? – fair point but I would prefer to say blunt.

    Almost 9 months in post and what is there to show for his tenure thus far?

    For me it is a question of what has been achieved as opposed to what commitment and experience he has brought to the post of Chief Executive. The reality of his position is that he like Gordon Smith before him can only do what the organisation will allow him to do.

    To take your point below:
    “He has to rid the organisation of the self-servers who have dominated for years and overhaul almost everything including ensuring that disciplinary system is fit for purpose which it clearly is not. It beggars belief that the SFA have staggered along like this for so many years without being found out”

    He is not in a position to do this. The real power in the SFA is with the Executive Board to which the Chief Executive reports.

    I agree with you whole heartedly that he needs support and I have stated this often enough in the past, but when there is no evidence of actual change, then such support is merely paying lip service.

    If Stewart Regan really is making a difference then his achievements should be shouted from the rooftops so that people can see for themselves and really get behind him.

    So my message to him is a simple one – tell us what you have achieved.
    My contribution at #1 is about the lack of engagement, whether from Stewart Regan or other components within the SFA and I totally agree with your comment about Supporters Direct.

    He doesn’t have to undertake a Forrest Gump style march around the country he just needs to – TELL US.

    As a general comment I agree with Jim, that the SFA has to de centralise and connect more around the country.

  • Comment number 7.

    #6 Iain Jack

    I understand the points that you make but I do think it is better to achieve by working quietly rather than shouting from the rooftops as this only infuriates those defeated and makes them dig in deeper.

    Regan is changing things, the disciplinary system is being changed in order to speed matters up and be transparent,presumably he will also include a tightening and clarification of the rules following the latest debacle.

    I think he's tough enough to take on the Executive Board if they attempt to block progress and this would be the time to broadcast the problems to ensure he had popular support.

    Remember the McLeish report hasn't long been published and it would have been folly to leap into matters before publication given the cost and effort put into this.

    I think we're all on the same side here in wishing him well and being supportive but I do have to disagree again regarding taking meetings around the country unless you mean having fans' forums and that may be a step too far at this time.
    I do feel that if Stewart Regan isn't given the support he needs then it's the end of the road and that's me being negative !!

  • Comment number 8.

    Uriah Heep says: "Actually Jim, Scottish Football is Glasgow Centric. There are more people pay on a weekly basis to support the Glasgow based teams than the total of all the other clubs added together."
    This may be true, but the Glasgow-centricity is the major stumbling block in the marketing of the league.
    Just now, the SPL are refusing to expand and make a bigger league with more teams (ergo: more supporters watching) because all the teams concerned are afraid of losing Old Firm match money. This is greedy and short-termist.

    The reason the SPL is in decline is that it is not an interesting league. I know a lot of Scottish people who watch the EPL instead, for fantasy football etc, and think of the SPL as a boring, joke league. As long as 10 teams are duking it out for pennies, interest will only wane. It will take a bigger league, with more teams, to make it a saleable product. More teams means more teams with a shot at Europe - and attracting better players to the game on the "stepping stone" premise (Old Firm teams or Europe) and a more even distribution of money.

    Since the SPL's war on sharing out TV money was declared, 3 clubs have gone bust and there are countless others plunging in and out of administration. This happened in 13 seasons. In the preceding 103, only 1 club went bust.

    Until Scotland stops looking at the Old Firm as the centre of the game, we will have a league that is only better than the League of Ireland because of sectarian bigotry fuelling support for two teams. It is a self-fulfilling joke.

  • Comment number 9.

    EDIT^: That was supposed to be: '... "the stepping stone" premise (Old Firm or EPL)...'

  • Comment number 10.

    Hi Jim. Was sitting a few rows behind you last night at the st Johnstone v Brechin game. First of all I'd just like to congratulate saints on the result. Not the greatest game to watch as a neutral but nevermind that. Secondly, and more importantly, couldn't help but notice that the boy from sky sports was sitting behind you copying all of your notes! What a cheek haha. Just goes to show that sky truely are hopeless.

  • Comment number 11.

    It will take a bigger league, with more teams, to make it a saleable product. More teams means more teams with a shot at Europe - and attracting better players to the game on the "stepping stone" premise (Old Firm teams or Europe) and a more even distribution of money.

    All teams who already enter the Scottish Cup have a chance at Europe.

    An expanded league on current finances means less money per team in revenue.

    More teams equals greater attendances? How so?

  • Comment number 12.

    Uriah Heep......there may be more paying now to watch the OF than the rest, that was not always historically the case.

    So where is that support coming from, a long way from Glasgow in a great many cases is the answer.

    But it's not just about the numbers game, the SFA represent all of Scottish football and must be seen to do so.

  • Comment number 13.

    Rob04 @ #3

    The change you describe is the slow ponderous, political Leviathan of which Government and the SFA are characteristic. Like the Leviathan, it lurks unnoticed in the deep, creeping up on you until it strikes. The outcome is rarely a success.

    Pessimistic? Perhaps. I would normally prefer to be optimistic, especially with Stewart Regan’s experience and ability to handle situations like your “Dougiegate”, so I’ll just say I’m not optimistic enough to believe that he is on the right track yet.
    Any head of an organisation embarking on change has to take people with them and my concern is that if Stewart Regan isn’t seen to be delivering on change, that people will assume there is no delivery.

    Regan might well be the right kind of ‘political animal’ to survive in the SFA but it has still to be seen if he has the dynamism for change.

    His challenge is a difficult one, for he will have an understandable concern that he cannot pronounce any change objectives for fear that the Leviathan will strike, and drag change back to the murky depths, just when land is in sight. After all, wouldn’t this simply fuel animosity against him?

    I dare say there is a lot going on in the wake of the McLeish report but it is part of Stewart Regan’s job, whether he or anyone else likes it or not, to be seen, to be leading the changes, by establishing effective and comprehensive communication, that reaches way beyond the confines of committee rooms at Hampden Park.

    “Quietly, incrementally, effectively” Normally sound advice, but it smacks of ‘behind closed doors’.

    It isn’t just the internal attitudes that Stewart Regan has to win over, it is the external ones with the supporters he has to win over as well. As far as I can see he hasn’t even begun that one yet.

    PS no offense taken by the way.

  • Comment number 14.

    Morbhoy @ #8

    Don’t know why my reply to Rob04 didn’t go through after my post at #6 and I see you have beaten me to the punch on alienating people as I too mentioned to Rob04.

    I would stress once again that I’m talking about achievements, not intentions.
    There is nothing wrong about saying “Here’s what the McLeish Report challenged us to do – and here’s we have achieved in the past 6 months”. Spell it out. Progress. Success. Hope for the future. A rebuilding process. Rebuilding faith.

    You talk of those who are defeated. Leadership and change are not about defeating people. It’s about getting them to follow you and you can’t do that if you are invisible.

    I’m not saying I’m right about Regan, simply not convinced that he is on track, that’s all. And what is more - I don’t want to be right.

  • Comment number 15.

    Percules @8 and Jim @12

    Please don't misunderstand my point - I implied no support for the position either way. My point was that the Glasgow centricity was a fact both in terms of administration and indeed where the critical mass of supporters choose (with their feet and cash) to participate.

    I am just as frustrated by the coaches leaving Dundee, Edinburgh etc to head to Glasgow but its a fact. What's more the people who travel (incl. Ireland) are not just faced with extortionate gate prices but high travel costs as well yet they persist while supporters of their local clubs stay away in droves. I suspect there are more people from the likes of Larkhall, Coatbridge and Airdrie (all in the 10 - 15k population) the support the Stirling clubs for example despite a population of 35k in the town and 60k in the wider area.

    We've seen periods where other teams rise to the fore and breakthrough into the European stage e.g. The new firm era with Dundee Utd and Aberdeen but neither pressed the advantage or invested in the stadia or players to make a sustained effort. Being pragmatic I struggle to see how these clubs can press on from their current position.

  • Comment number 16.

    15 Uriah Heep, I agree with you entirely on the New Firm. Both failed to press their advantage as you put it.
    Building on the success they both enjoyed in Europe and domestically, both clubs should have captured much larger season ticket bases than they now have.

  • Comment number 17.

    I thought the stands around Tannadice were bought using the money from those successful cup runs and league seasons in the eighties. The money was reinvested to keep the quality of player and manager - then Rangers and Souness came and the money went to a new level.

    The whole system in scottish football is out of date - theres too many organisations to start with, also Rangers should have been thrown out of next years FA cup by you guessed it the SFA who once again showed its ineffectiveness in matters like that - could you have seen any other team in a derby cup game getting away with that. Like the FA in england, its not fit for purpose and run by people with conflicts of interest. Change cannot come soon enough though not until the turkeys are in pastures new.

  • Comment number 18.

    #13 Iain

    I've never been sure that the SFA has changed that much in the past or indicated a desire to do so (pre-McLeish). From my position, I wouldn't honestly know whether Regan has the ability to carry it all through. But I like an approach that starts with revamping structure and function, and getting 'buy in' from your internal people. Its a process and I accept that time is involved. I think if we were another year down the line and there was a silence I'd be more sceptical.

    But I'd also be surprised. If you want Government to invest in the game, want the constant negative media headlines to go away, want the clubs (or club!)/ refs/ fans off your back, then you will have to be 'fit for purpose'. The pressues of these and particularly that of Celtic this season give Regan more power against the leviathan than he might otherwise have expected.

    And onto 'McLeish' the guy has already had a good share of Scottish football's unique theatre!!

  • Comment number 19.

    Regan can stay. And Iain Blair. I like him. But that's it. Get rid of the rest of the chiefs. Combine the SFA, SPL and SFL.

    The tail's been wagging the dog for too long. The SFA seem to be taking their lead from FIFA, thinking football's being run for their benefit rather than vice-versa. FIFA, UEFA, the SFA, the SPL, the SFL, the Premier League and the FA are all ADMINISTRATORS, not bleedin' kings and queens.

    The football pecking order should be:
    1. Fans
    2. Referees
    3. Clubs
    Followed quite some way behind by:
    4. Administrators
    5. Broadcasters

    Unfortunately it's currently exactly the other way round. Witness the league reconstruction plans. The fans are sick to the back teeth of playing the same teams four times every season, but Sky are dictating that that is exactly what is happening, and the administrators (and clubs), who can stand up to them, don't. So who loses out? The fans: the people funding the whole jing bang. The only people out of the list above that are irrecplacable.

    Moving the SFA around the country may be a noble idea, but it's fiddling while Rome burns, for flip's sake.

  • Comment number 20.

    One of the main and obvious restrictions for any re structuring of any football is the finacial vs football and fans tussle. it is never easy, sadly in the case of scotland the finance and footballing camps don't sit on the same side of the fence at all. all clubs need to have enough finances to operate and maintain youth facilities etc, on that level the finance and football camp sit together. sadly most football clubs are PLC's and are businesses that operate way above and beyond those basic levels. furthermore the explosion of wealth in football as a whole means having to compete for wages on a financial basis on some level witht the rest of the market as that's what footballers expect.

    with respect to seeing the pro's and cons of considering finances on the scottish game from a purely footballing perspective Steve Keans recent comments relating to the scottish market are interesting

    "It is a very active market and I think the reason being is probably because financial constraints, there are so many of the younger players who can get into the Scottish teams so early," he said.

    "If they can get themselves established, like what happened at Hamilton, when the young players started playing, they get close to 100 games by the time they are 19."

    And so where is the line where football finances become damaging to scottish football and not productive? the tussle goes on.

  • Comment number 21.

    I have a question about the SFA, so please forgive me if I should know better. Can I, as an individual with a lifelong personal investment (time and money) in Scottish football 'join' the SFA?

    If not, is there any reason or mechanism that prevents such membership?


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