Scottish Football, SFA

A Collective Choice

Good Afternoon.

You may recall that last summer the SFA threw its weight behind Michel Platini’s candidacy to become FIFA President.

That ended well, didn’t it?

It is worth having a look back at what was said at the time. On 30 July 2015, Stewart Regan had this to say:

“Regan said that football is looking for a ‘safe pair of hands’, and Platini fits the bill.

‘It’s very positive news for football generally, Michel Platini has done a fantastic job at Uefa. He’s developed the financial revenue streams for football and has led the way, led from the top.

He’s allowed every national association to have a voice. He consults and engages with chief executives and presidents, that’s been a breath of fresh air.

He listens and he’s very innovative and creative. We believe he’d be a very good choice for Fifa president. He’ll gather a lot of support, my understanding is he already has the backing of four of the six confederations.

People are looking for a safe pair of hands, someone that can lead the organisation through change, someone with a good track record who understands football. Michel Platini is all of those things.

There’s always going to be objections to various candidates, Michel Platini was questioned when we attended a Uefa meeting in Cyprus 18 months ago. He made it very clear at the time that he was in favour of the World Cup rotating around the world, giving nations the chance to stage it who have never had that before.

It’s difficult for me to comment on his objectives though, that’s something you’d need to discuss with him directly.'”

Lovely, eh?

And then on 10 August 2015 came this Statement from the SFA:

Scottish FA backs Platini for FIFA President

Monday, 10 August 2015

Following a scheduled meeting of the Scottish FA Board, Chief Executive Stewart Regan has confirmed the Association’s support for Michel Platini ahead of the forthcoming FIFA Presidential election.

The current President of UEFA, European football’s governing body, announced last month that he would stand in next year’s election to replace Sepp Blatter.

FIFA have confirmed that the election will take place on 26th February 2016 and have also announced a reform programme to include integrity checks for Executive Committee members, the introduction of term limits, higher standards of governance, and individual disclosure of compensation.

‘From the perspective of the smaller countries, he has opened up the channels of communication and ensured that every country, irrespective of size, has a voice,’ said Stewart Regan.

‘That is healthy for the game and if he is prepared to do that across the world, I’m sure he will be well-received.

We discussed the FIFA election at our recent Board meeting and agreed that the Scottish FA would support Michel Platini’s candidacy.'”


But Mr Regan wasn’t finished there. A few days later he was defending the SFA’s position to STV:

Stewart Regan defends Scottish FA’s backing for Michel Platini

[See, I told you he did!]

Regan: “Michel Platini is well known to the Scottish FA, we have a good relationship with him that has been developed over a number of years and indeed one of the previous chief executives went to work in a general secretary role at UEFA [David Taylor].

Michel Platini has given a voice to the smaller countries across Europe and countires like Scotland rely on that. It is important for us to be heard and we’ve been consulted with and engaged. We’ve had our ideas listened to.

We’ve benefited financially from Michel Platini’s tenure as UEFA President and he has built brands like the Champions League and Europa League into really strong competitions both financially and commercially.

He’s also committed to reform. It’s very important that we see progress at FIFA, we’ve all said we need to have a different FIFA one with strong leadership and we think he’s a strong leader.

I think you’ve got to give Michel Platini a chance to put forward his mandate. He’s spoken to a number of the countries across UEFA and he’s committed to delivering change. I think it’s unfair to criticise him before he’s had the chance to put his mandate forward.”

Marvellous! It was certainly great to see the SFA deciding who was the best candidate for the top job in world football, and giving them their wholehearted support.

You might call it ‘leading from the front’ on behalf of Scottish football. 

Obviously, things later went somewhat awry, and M. Platini found himself unable to stand for the the FIFA Presidency. However, the ever-flexible the SFA has found someone else to back, as they announced yesterday:

Scottish FA supports Infantino bid for FIFA Presidency

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

The Scottish FA will cast its vote for Gianni Infantino at the forthcoming FIFA Presidential Election in Zurich.

The Board of the Scottish FA supports his bid to become FIFA President after reviewing the manifestos of all candidates.

Stewart Regan, the Scottish FA Chief Executive, Alan McRae, the President and Rod Petrie, the Vice-President, will travel to Switzerland tomorrow to represent the association at Friday’s election and the President will cast the vote in favour of the Swiss, who is currently the General Secretary of European football’s governing body, UEFA.

During the process of identifying a preferred candidate, the Scottish FA Board also consulted with the wider Scottish football family via the Congress meeting in February. Congress includes representatives from league bodies and affiliates, PFA Scotland, Supporters Direct Scotland, Coaches and Managers’ Association, sportscotland, Scottish Senior Football Referees Association and Scottish Football Writers’ Association.

Infantino was also considered to be the preferred choice among the majority of Congress members during a discussion forum which followed a review of the candidates’ manifestos.

Stewart Regan, Scottish FA Chief Executive: ‘The Board of the Scottish FA is clear that Gianni Infantino is the best candidate possible to lead the governance reform required at FIFA. He has been a highly respected General Secretary of UEFA for many years and has performed that role with skill, diplomacy and professional integrity.

As well as having the support of the majority of UEFA’s national associations, he also has the support of many across the world in other Confederations. We believe he has the leadership qualities required to push forward change at world football’s governing body and for those reasons we will be voting for Gianni Infantino.'”

Hmmm. For me, there were two things which stood out in yesterday’s statement.

Firstly, there was none of the previous detailed explanation of why the SFA are supporting their preferred candidate. In the case of Platini, we heard a lot of things about the ‘voice’ he had given the smaller nations in UEFA, the benefits (financial and otherwise) he had brought them, and his ability to listen and innovate.

But in the case of Infantino, all we are told is that he is a skilled diplomat of integrity who is best-placed to lead a programme of reform. Now, it may be that the SFA haven’t had many close dealings with Infantino, and so don’t feel able to extol his virtues in the same way that that they could Platini’s. However, that seems a little unlikely given that he has been the General Secretary of UEFA while the SFA were working so closely with its President!

Could it perhaps be the case that the SFA are ‘once bitten, twice shy’, and felt it better to be a little more circumspect about their preferred candidate than they were last summer?

But whatever the case, you might have expected them to say a little bit more about 

  • why he is the best candidate for the job; and 
  • what they expect him to deliver for them 

…especially as they say his manifesto has been scrutinised by all and sundry!
Which brings me to my second point. The paragraph in bold above stands out a mile when compared to previous public comments. Where the backing for Platini was seemingly an SFA decision taken on the back of what the SFA felt was best for Scottish and world football, the support for Infantino is presented as being on the back of the views of the “wider football family” in Scotland. 

Who are listed in the statement. In great detail. 

[Incidentally ‘football family’ always strikes me as an annoying Sepp Blatterism which is best avoided…].

The Clumpany is obviously thrilled to see the SFA taking its decisions on the back of consultation with a big group of stakeholders. Who are publicly listed and thereby associated with the final decision no matter whether it turns out to be good or (heaven forbid) bad.

I look forward to further SFA initiatives which take on board the views of those outwith their board room. Let’s face it, there are plenty to choose from…




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