Scottish Football, SFA, SPFL

Summit To Shout About


Good Evening (and please Vote ‘Clumpany’!).

Hmmm. Scotland fail to qualify for yet another tournament, and up pops Henry McLeish to suggest… a summit!

Woohoo! Said no one.

Given that others with far more knowledge than me are already fully covering

  • the state of the national team; and
  • the will-he-won’t-he soap opera that is Gordon Strachan’s decision about his future (which is surely partly dependent on the SFA offering him a new contract, isn’t it?!)

…I am not going to dwell on these issues.

Nor am I going to engage in a blow-by-blow account of how the implementation of the McLeish review is getting on. Because that would be a bigger yawn-fest than every other Clumpany blog put together.

But what I am going to do is dwell on a couple of other matters.

Firstly, the quotes offered by the SFA and SPFL in response to McLeish’s comments today, as reported by the BBC:

“The SFA responded by stressing that it is committed to implementing McLeish’s 2012 recommendations: ‘Scotland United: A 2020 Vision sets out a clear commitment to improving football in areas of grassroots, performance, finances and governance. We are committed to working with our member clubs and bodies to improve in all areas of the national game'”.

“SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster added that the league body was working with the SFA, government and others to make improvements. ‘In the two years since the SPFL was formed, there has been much positive change, including the introduction of Premiership play-offs, financial redistribution to assist Championship clubs, new sponsor and TV broadcast deals, increased revenues and greater fee payments to clubs'”.

So that’s that then. All trundling along nicely. Failing to qualify for 9 tournaments in a row is already being addressed. I wonder if that ‘addressing’ has in mind a date by which Scotland will actually have qualified for a tournament?

The SFA’s ‘Scotland United: A 2020 Vision’ document said that

“By 2015, both [men’s and women’s] squads should be qualifying for the World Cup finals”.

So maybe now the plan is just to keep making gradual…errr… ‘progress’ and hope for the best?

And what of the domestic game? Do the SFA and SPFL not have a slight inkling that things could be much better RIGHT NOW? Perhaps in terms of TV deals, sponsorship, governance and transparency etc?

It does sound a little complacent doesn’t it? Or at the very least, like a classic ‘politician’s answer’ , which suggests that no new work is needed because they are serenely on top of a problem which they don’t really acknowledge exists in the first place!

My second point regards the need for a summit. I question the value to be added by interested parties holding a special high-profile powwow any time soon.

The McLeish Report itself was meant to set the game on the path to a better future following a comprehensive review. The Report and the subsequent Strategic Plan WERE – in effect – the big powwow.

And in any case, the SFA organised a big Convention just last December, which brought together people and vested interests from across the Scottish game and beyond.

It was billed as

“a knowledge and information sharing platform for the members, sponsors and partners of Scottish football’s governing body. It is part of a proposed modernisation of the Scottish FA Council, with members voting at next year’s Annual Meeting for a more modern, dynamic and representative format; one of the last remaining recommendations of the Henry McLeish Review of Scottish Football.”

Amongst its many delights it promised candy floss, waltzers and a hook-a-duck stall fascinating workshops on maximising sponsorship investment and an exclusive look behind the scenes at the Scottish FA’s Judicial Panel process.”

Stewart Regan provided further details:

“The Convention is intended to become an annual event shaped by our members for the benefit of our members. The programme is intended to look at the key areas of the Scottish FA’s strategic plan, Scotland United: A 2020 Vision, with presentations from experts in the field in the areas of Performance, Strong Quality Growth, Growing Football’s Finances and Leading the Game.”

“It will be thought-provoking and idea-generating. We are committed to our ongoing programme of investment at all levels of the game, and equally committed to modernising and innovating off the field.”

“This journey must be done together, with the assistance and support of all our members and the Convention is another step in the direction towards a prosperous future for Scottish football.”

So there you are Henry McLeish, an appropriate forum is already in place and is supposedly going to meet annually. [NB I can just imagine an SFA blazer screaming at the screen “but but but Comrade Clumpany, the SFA Convention isn’t a suitable forum for discussing McLeish’s comments”. To which I reply: use your imagination. If you can’t discuss these issues when you have so many interested parties in the room, then you have a problem].

However, in my humble opinion, the real priority should not be to have set-piece gatherings or to spend huge amounts of time concocting further plans. It should be to get on with doing the things that have already been committed to. With gusto, enthusiasm, transparency, and without fear or favour.

Oh, and with people being held to account when they fall short.

You may remember that Barry Hearn tore a strip off those running our game when he spoke at the SFA Convention (and then to the press) last year.

Barry Hearn: Scottish football chiefs are lazy, full of self-pity & have a defeatist attitude.. if they worked for me they’d be sacked

It is worth reading his comments again. But they can be summed up in one quote:

“In my view you have done nowhere near enough”.


And if you don’t believe Barry, let’s go back and look at what Henry McLeish’s Report said about the SFA (and therefore the governance of our game) in 2010, as reported by the BBC:

“the SFA ‘lacks coherence, focus and a sense of overall purpose, is ill-equipped to deal with current problems and has failed to plan effectively for the future’

It also claims that within Scotland’s ruling football body ‘there is little appreciation of the benefits of being more open and transparent’ which shows a ‘distinct lack of mission, vision, outcomes and objectives’ and that the structure of the organisation lacks ‘consistency, logic and at times discipline'”.

And now ask yourself if it feels like our governing bodies have been truly transformed in the subsequent five years.


On balance, I remain of the opinion that if we really want to transform our game at both international and domestic levels we need a complete change in the way it is run. Both in terms of the governing organisations and the people in charge of them.

You might even call it a revolution.


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