An Open Letter to Ian Maxwell from the Scottish Football Supporters Association
The SFSA are disappointed but not surprised by the misinformation that was put in the public domain by the SFA at this recent meeting at Holyrood.
19th January 2024
These subjects similarly feature high on our priority list here at the Scottish Football Supporters Association and the Scottish Football Alliance. During the session it was encouraging to hear of the good work being conducted by the SFA, and we welcome all good news stories and positivity linked to our national game.
Firstly, when asked about the relevance and need for an Independent Regulator in Scotland, you used the financial gulf between the Scottish and English football set-ups effectively to dismiss the proposal as unnecessary. The examples you provided included the Super League breakaway saga (which did not apply to Scotland), historic individual clubs’ financial failings in England, Covid19 impacts on the overall health of the game, and the behaviour/actions of club owners who often act without the agreement and consent of their public. You suggested that these issues were not relevant to Scotland, eliminating the requirement for an Independent Regulator. You also cited current governance arrangements at Hampden as “robust”.
However, I would challenge all these points. We should consider, for example, the Covid19 impacts and resulting decision-making that led to the detriment of Hearts and Partick Thistle, amongst others, the notorious “missing” Dundee vote episode, and the considerable financial strains across all tiers of the game.
Also, the fact that the financial entailments of Scottish football are much smaller than those of our larger neighbours down south in no way means that proper transparency, accountability and appropriate scrutiny and regulation should not apply here. I am frankly rather surprised to hear you suggest otherwise.
It is important to stress that both the SFA and the SPFL were invited to participate in this process, but elected not to do so. You will recall I had previous conversations with you and Neil Doncaster on this very issue.
A number of online evidence sessions were also held with experts in finance and other relevant areas, as well as former CEOs, international players, coaches, managers, and football administrators. To casually dismiss expert contributions from eminent individuals (such as the late Craig Brown and Walter Smith) cannot pass without comment. Members of parliament, senior figures in Scottish public life and individuals and organisations across the game at all levels were engaged with our review and report.
The review also conducted an online survey, seeking views on the key issues being considered. Over 2,500 responses (summarised in the appendix below) were received, and this followed earlier research conducted by independent, expert German sports academics with over 16,500 responses.
The detailed case for an Independent Regulator is set out in our report, Rebuilding Scottish Football, which was profiled in a constructive and thoughtful meeting at Holyrood when it was published last year, and which will form part of a members’ motion at the Scottish Parliament shortly. We would urge both the SFA and the SPFL to engage positively with its arguments and proposals. This is in your interest, our interest, and that of the game at all levels and wider society across Scotland.
Independent scrutiny, measures to ensure transparency and accessibility, and appropriate forms of regulation are being developed and extended in many areas of society at present, including sport. There is an opportunity here to move forward together for the sake of the game. In that light we hope you will reconsider your dismissal – which does little to build the kind of confidence our football authorities need to flourish – and work with us and others to look at how the game we all love can be reformed and reenergised.Yours Sincerely
Chief Executive Officer
Scottish Football Supporters’ Association
Appendix: What fans have asked for (from our survey)
• Poor leadership
• Self-interest and conflict of interest
• Not accountable
• Disregard for supporters
• Self-serving / contempt
• Lack of empathy for the customer
• No vision
• Consultative / Customer-focused
• Open / transparent
• Accountable / independent
• Working for the common good
• Commercially astuteWHAT DO FANS WANT TO SEE?
(Based on six years of research data)
• Fan representation at the highest level
• Larger leagues
• More competition in the top league
• Stop playing the same teams four times a season
• Summer football
• Alcohol allowed at games
• An independent board to combat self-interest
• End of excessive CEO salaries
• A coherent SFA talent strategy for national teams
• Better sponsors – over-reliance on betting and alcohol
• Influence on TV scheduling