In the SFA we now have a governing body whom no one trusts to govern with a duty of care to all aspects of the game and to everyone who takes part in it. However somehow trust restoring steps must be taken or supporters will just drift away from an industry whose business model is based not only on a core belief supporters do not share, but one they actually despise as it removes the sporting element from what is supposed to be a sport.
However there is an opportunity to be heard and influence arising from an interesting development during last week when The Supporters Direct 2012 Annual Conference was postponed for reasons that, whilst not detailed, are pretty obvious to any interested observer. If those reasons could be summed up in three words those words (ironically or predictably given the main composition of Supporters Direct) would be “lack of trust”.
So who are Supporters Direct some may ask and what do they do?
Supporters Direct Mission Statement.
“Our goal is to promote sustainable spectator sports clubs based on supporters’ involvement & community ownership”
What do we do?
- Supporters Direct campaigns for the wider recognition of the social, cultural and economic value of sports clubs
- Sports clubs and competitions are increasingly being put at risk by short-term vested interests, poor financial management and inadequate standards of governance; we are the UK’s leading body working to ensure that clubs are run responsibly and are financially sustainable
- Supporters Direct aims to create the conditions in which supporters can secure influence and ownership of sports clubs
- Supporters Direct provides guidance and support to groups in more than 20 countries throughout Europe
- Supporters Direct promotes the value of supporter ownership to sports fans, empowering them to set up supporters’ trusts or become members of existing trusts
- Supporters Direct is a community benefit society, owned by its members
So why was their annual conference postponed given the integral part of Supporters Direct’s Annual Year such a conference represents? Their web site states:
Apologies to all of those people who have signed up but full refunds will be issued.
The announcement does not say to whom views can be conveyed in order to be collated and heard but these are contact details.
Given that Supporters Direct are themselves drawn from the various supporter trusts the obvious way to make your views known to them is via the Celtic Supporters Trust who had planned to attend the conference and are well aware from experience of engaging with the SFA and others on reform issues the difficulties supporters face in having their voices heard.
Back in the spring of 2010 the CST, along with other Celtic supporter groups sent the letter at Annex 1 to the SFA via Celtic. There was an immediate change to the Video Review Panel process followed by changes to the Disciplinary procedures (that have greatly displeased Mr McCoist and co) plus the adoption of the recommendations made in the McLeish report at the SFA AGM in 2011.
Much remains to be done to see those SFA reforms come alive and you can read at Annex 2 a submission of evidence by Supporters Direct in England to Parliament about the FA that rings just as true about what needs to be done at the SFA in Scotland, except that unlike the Scottish Parliament, the UK Parliament in England actually found a way that neither FIFA nor UEFA objected to, to get involved in trying to help build trust in the direction of the game in England.
You would have thought that protecting the sport that everyone agrees forms an integral part of the fabric of Scottish society would have come under a devolved power the Scottish Government would have been only too happy to seize upon. Their silence and reluctance to get involved in proper SFA governance is therefore very puzzling. However I digress.
The lesson that all supporter trusts or associations or individuals can learn from the experience of the Celtic supporters groups in 2010 is that the SFA do respond to supporters if their individual voices can harnessed and conveyed to the SFA in terms they understand with objectives and consequences that any reasonable person would find acceptable.
To that end there follows a suggested draft to be presented (after appropriate discussion amongst all supporter trusts and groups in Scotland and amended to suit) to the SFA on the key issue of restoring trust and the means by which it can be done.
There are many more issues similar to those at Annex 2 which SD would want to take up with the SFA, but without trust as a foundation nothing meaningful can happen, so the prime objective has to be a trust restoring measure brought about by being treated as equals. I therefore urge readers to contact your supporter trusts to give them your views to pass to Supporters Direct and if you agree with the thrust of the suggested letter to the SFA that follows, if it reflects your concerns, make it the basis of your submission to your local trust, details of which can be found here http://www.supporters-direct.org/links/?lc=33
The Celtic Supporter Trust can be contacted at http://www.celtictrust.net/?func=d_home_contact
Suggested letter to the SFA from Supporters Direct
Dear Mr Regan.
It is evident from the situation leading to the postponement of the planned Supporters Direct Conference in Falkirk that the SFA have lost the trust and confidence of Scottish Football supporters in general in the ability of the Scottish Football Association to administer professional football in Scotland in a manner that reflects their duty of care to all aspects of the game and everyone who takes part in it.
This is as a result of their handing of the EBT issue at Glasgow Rangers and it is not just the SFA response to Rangers entering administration and then liquidation that has created trust issues, but the failure of SFA process in the preceding years to prevent the situation arising through proper application of club licensing.
That trust can only be restored by a full transparent investigation and review of the SFA processes since 2000 when EBTs were first introduced, particularly the process for granting of club licences that has clearly failed to do its job and put our game on the critical list.
It is our view, particularly as a result of their response to the Rangers situation that the SFA remains a body unaccountable to supporters in Scotland at large and we wish that to be remedied. To that end we will encourage all supporters to boycott Scotland matches AND the products of corporate sponsors of the SFA until there is:
- a) An immediate announcement of a review (in which supporter representatives will be involved) to be conducted into the SFA’s dealings with Rangers with particular reference to club licensing from 2000 onwards
- b) The introduction of ways and means of making the SFA more accountable to football supporters in a meaningful way.
- c) a start date and timetable for that review and a further timetable on completion for carrying out the recommendations.
We believe that without such steps the Supporter’s Direct initiative as a whole is but a sham on the part of football authorities and we will not engage with the SFA, in spite of UK Government support for the SD initiative, and will encourage the boycotts described above* until such times as we have an acceptable response from the SFA to our request for an investigation and review into their failed processes and lack of accountability. We believe that if Scottish football is to survive it has to be on a basis of trust and confidence in those responsible for governing our game and at present both are absent.
Signed …….. Supporters Direct Scotland.
* see Annex 3 for list of SFA Sponsors.
Annex 1 (Letter sent to Celtic in March 2010 re Loss of Trust in the SFA.)
Dear Mr Lawwell,
1 We the undersigned welcome the approach Celtic have made to the SFA re disciplinary matters as we believe it reflects the mood of Celtic supporters everywhere and as expressed at the latest Open Meeting of supporter groups.
2. As a result of evidence accumulated during this football season 2009/10, the Celtic support in all forms, who are major contributors to the financial* well being of the game in Scotland, have lost confidence in the ability of the Scottish Football Association (SFA) to administer professional football in Scotland in manner that reflects their duty of care to all aspects of the game and everyone who takes part in it.
3. That loss of confidence has increased significantly as a result of the SFAfs response to Celtic from Gordon Smith justifying the status quo on disciplinary matters relating to appeals and the use of the Review Panel, with an interpretation of FIFA rules that appears misleading, self serving and inaccurate.
4. Those represented at the meeting wanted changes in Disciplinary Procedures that made them more Transparent, Accountable and Independent of the referees. We believe this feeling permeates throughout the Celtic support and we note that the English FA operate a system with a Regulatory Commission that meets the above criteria without breaking FIFA rules, real or imaginary, and urge and encourage Celtic to pursue the implementation of a system on similar or improved lines in Scotland.
5. The Celtic support, for the good of the game, are determined that procedures change and are prepared to use our position as major financial contributors to Scottish Football to bring about what are reasonable, fair and just changes. We also ask Celtic to convey our concerns to the appropriate authorities as they see fit viz:
Football Authority in Scotland (The SFA) And Europe (UEFA) Civil authority (on the issue of proper governance of football.) And ask if the Review of Scottish Football being conducted by Henry McLeish can look into the wider matter of transparency and accountability at the SFA as whole.
Signed by :
1/ Celtic Supporters Association
2/ Celtic Trust
3/ The Junglebhoys
4/North American Federation of Celtic Supporters Clubs
WRITTEN EVIDENCE TO CMS SELECT COMMITTEE (UK Parliament) – 17 JULY 2012 in respect of football in England.
http://clients.squareeye.net/uploads/sd/Supporters_Direct_-_CMS_SC_17.07.12_Evidence_FINAL.pdf for Full report.
1. Executive Summary
a) We reiterate our endorsement and support for the work done by the Select Committee and the series of recommendations put forward in its report. However we are concerned about the extent to which those recommendations have been, or are being, acted upon.
b) The response from the football authorities does not fully address the majority of the recommendations put forward. In addition, it does not put forward a strategy or a detailed timetable for delivering the recommendations.
c) The Select Committee must not let the football authorities off the hook. Numerous previous reports into the governance of football have ended up with insufficient meaningful action and it would be desperately disappointing if this latest initiative were to suffer the same fate.
d) It is clear that football’s existing constitutional structure and regulatory framework are incapable of delivering a modern game that is both representative and sustainable. This must be addressed.
e) The incredible 70% rise in the new domestic broadcasting rights deal for the Premier League provides a golden opportunity to make a difference. It would be shameful if this multi-billion pound agreement were simply to contribute to an escalation of the ‘prune juice’ effect for 20 or so clubs over the next broadcasting cycle.
f) The Premier League’s distribution model rightly deserves to be recognised as one of Europe’s fairest in terms of distribution within the League itself. However, the systemic problems elsewhere in the pyramid highlighted by the Select Committee’s report demonstrate the need for a more holistic and harmonised approach across football. It is vital that The FA is empowered to adopt this” whole game” perspective.
g) Making the game more sustainable and vibrant throughout the pyramid is demonstrably in the long-term interests of all stakeholders. The football authorities must find a way (and must be held to account) to utilise better the resources available within the game, with a view to giving us a truly world-leading infrastructure that complements the huge success that we already have in our top leagues.
h) Supporters Direct (“SD”) is a willing partner to enable some of these changes and will continue to be a critical friend to the football authorities for the betterment of the game. Supporters have a key role to play in the governance structures of the sport, driving improved transparency and ensuring democratic representation.
i) The pledge contained in the Coalition’s Programme for Government “…to encourage the reform of football governance rules to encourage the adoption of cooperative ownership of football clubs by its supporters” would not be met by the proposals of the football authorities.
SD has set out a Club Licensing proposal (see section 4.6) which could deliver on the pledge without recourse to legislation.
j) The Select Committee’s and the Government’s insistence that the football authorities find a collective solution to the long term funding of SD has not been addressed and there continues to be uncertainty over the long term sustainability of SD’s operations.
Annex 3 List SFA Sponsors.
SFA Sponsors and Partners
Adidas Official Sportswear Supplier of the Scottish FA
Use form at http://www.adidas-group.com/en/local/contacts/contactus.aspx Select Public Relations and copy/paste letter or write to
Bank of Scotland Sponsor of Soccer One and Midnight
Bank of Scotland
http://www.vauxhall.co.uk/about-vauxhall/vauxhall-news/2011/01/vauxhall_sponsorshomenations.html and e mail email@example.com to pass on the letter to the Sponsor/Marketing Dept
G4S Official Sponsor of the
Scotland Supporters Club
copy and paste letter
http://www.carling.com/contactus/generalQ.html copy and paste letter or write to
Molson Coors Brewing Company (UK) Ltd,
IMG Media Rights Partner
www.imgworld.com contact us or write to
Specsavers Main Sponsor of Referees
Marketing, Public Relations,
Greater London House
London NW1 75D
Sportscotland Funding Partner of Scottish FA including Youth Football
McDonald’s Official Community Partner and
sponsor of Quality Mark Programme
McDonald’s Restaurants Ltd:
23/25 Gordon Street
CashBack Sponsor of Men’s Under 21 Team,
Group Corporate Responsibility Team
William Hill PLC