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Research response from SFA & SPFL

Date: 14th November 2017

Benchmarking survey: the response from Hampden and beyond

SFSA’s survey of football stakeholders in Scotland, put together independently by expert academics in Germany, is the largest ever to take place across Europe. It has produced coverage in the papers, on the internet and in the broadcast media – but, despite huge dissatisfaction about how the game is run here, little public response so far from the football authorities.

We want that to change, and we will be working with partners across the game to make sure that it does. In England, where the FA have recently been strongly criticised, it is worth noting that the CEO and Chairman came out saying that they accepted the need for reform, and acknowledging that the public had lost faith in them.

Despite being rated worse than FIFA for openness, governance and transparency, and having lost the trust of the paying public in the survey results, we have seen no such response so far from the SFA and SPFL here. That isn’t the kind of professional reaction that we need and should expect from those at the top of the game.

An SPFL spokesman told BBC Scotland: “We are all working towards a common goal to grow and improve the game in Scotland and are encouraged by progress in recent years.

“It’s worth underlining that the SPFL’s commercial income and revenues back to clubs are at record levels and attendances last season were at the highest level this decade, up 12% over the previous season.”

While the survey records the fact that the individual clubs scored well among supporters and stakeholders, they as part of the members organisation need to reflect on the scores for the governing bodies and back a process of root and branch reform for our game. Otherwise there is no hope of key stakeholders ever having faith in those running Scottish football.

The SFA also highlighted revenues due to be redistributed to member clubs as well as qualifying success of the men’s under-17s, women’s under-19s and women’s A team, the latter having reached their first major finals at Euro 2017.

The governing body also pointed to its annual survey conducted in conjunction with Supporters Direct Scotland and the SPFL, as well as “the development of the Supporter Liaison Officer programme”.

“In our role as guardians of the game, tough choices often need to be made and we accept we have come through a challenging period for Scottish football,” said the SFA spokesperson.

“We have implemented 95% of the recommendations laid down by Henry McLeish himself since 2011, many of which focused on the governance of the game.

We can and will comment more on the issues raised in these responses. However, at a fundamental level both the SPFL and the SFA appear to be ignoring the fact that the stakeholders who participated in our research felt that the current governance structure is not fit for purpose. There is no accountability to supporters and others regularly involved in the game at grassroots, and we are fed a few crumbs from the table. Yes, it’s good that one of our youth teams and two women’s teams have qualified for major tournaments. But elsewhere there is lack of openness and lack of success.

 

We acknowledge that fan engagement through the SLO programme is useful – although doing your own survey with questions that you set yourself, without regard to the issues fans and others may want to raise, is clearly not adequate. Nor is paying Supporters Direct Scotland to be a partner. We need independent surveying (which we have initiated through third-party experts in Germany), an independent watchdog, and representation through an independent national fans network – which is what SFSA is.

 

Given the call for Scottish Government involvement in improving the way the game is run, we are pleased to say that a further meeting will be happening shortly with the Sports Minister. In the coming week we will send the results to every club in Scotland, with a letter calling for recognition of the problems that exist and collaboration across the game in seeking solutions. We will also be seeking to engage further with the football authorities in looking at the results of the first-ever benchmarking survey in Scottish football, and in taking them seriously.

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