Date: 20th July 2017
FIRST INDEPENDENT RESEARCH ON HOW SCOTTISH FOOTBALL IS RUN SHOWS BIG GULF BETWEEN FANS AND GOVERNING BODIES
7 November 2017: The results of the first independent evaluation of how football governance is seen in Scotland have been released today by the Scottish Football Supporters Association (SFSA).
The results highlight a growing disconnect between supporters and the game’s national and international governing bodies; improving relationships with individual clubs; and the stark reality that many fans could end up leaving the game for good unless change comes.
The research shows that all stakeholders want Scottish parliamentarians to pressure the Scottish governing bodies to improve, and that a majority rate the SPFL and the SFA lower than UEFA and FIFA in terms of their openness, honesty and trustworthiness.
The survey, which saw over 16,000 people participate during September, was carried out by the SFSA in partnership with Professor Dr Axel Faix and Dr Joachim Lammert, two respected German sports academics from the University of Applied Science and Arts in Dortmund and the University of Leipzig. Both have significant experience in carrying out similar evaluations in Germany and on a European level.
Key findings from the survey include:
Unsurprisingly, there is also a growing concern about the performance of the national game, and what that reflects about the health of Scottish football as a whole.
Henry McLeish, a board member of the SFSA, commented: “This challenging independent research into how Scottish football governance is seen has uncovered some very concerning issues, but also provides a real opportunity for change. Robust research can form a platform for positive action for the future. The results of this survey are a healthy wake-up call for Scotland’s game.”
He continued: “The fact that over 60% of fans say that they could end up leaving the game in the future rings a major alarm bell, as does the knowledge that almost a quarter say they never attend away games. Trust in the game’s governing structures is worryingly low, so much so that a significant number now believe that the Scottish Government should be stepping in to help address the problem.
“On a positive note, individual clubs seem to be making progress towards improving relationships with fans through greater engagement and transparency. The difference in the view fans have of their clubs compared to attitudes towards the governing bodies is noticeable.
“What we appear to have is a big disconnect between the football authorities at Hampden Park and those who are essential to the flourishing of the game at a hands-on – supporters certainly, but also players, coaches, managers and volunteers. Many key stakeholders have no real input into how their game is run at present. Greater involvement of those who love, resource and pay for the game is crucial in helping to turn it around.”
Simon Barrow, chair of the SFSA, said: “This is the first fully independent, professional research into perceptions of how the Scottish game is run in 144 years. It highlights many areas of concern, but equally indicates that the time is ripe for change and supporter engagement. Rather than ignoring the worrying gulf between fans and governing bodies, we see this as an opportunity for them to build bridges with us.
“Whether it’s commercial aspects of the game, the performance of our national sides or overall governance and transparency, this is a challenge and chance to listen more carefully to what fans, who remain the game’s vital customers, have to say and to offer. Played the right way, it could be football’s democratic moment.”
The intention of the SFSA is to run out this benchmarking exercise on a regular basis, so that a culture of engagement and continuous improvement can be developed.
SFSA chair Simon Barrow explained: “We would like to do that through helping to build new partnerships, to bridge the gap between grassroots and governance. What we are looking for is a ‘big conversation’ on the future of Scottish football, its ability to contribute to community wellbeing and its role as a key cultural industry for Scotland.
“We are kick-starting this process through some practical work in three areas: governance, promoting the game, and performance. This will draw on creative minds and well-known figures across Scottish football. We will be inviting the governing authorities to engage positively with fans through our networks, and to consider reform in the way the game is run, promoted and developed.
After further digestion of the results of the new survey, the Scottish Football Supporters Association will be proceeding with short-life working parties comprised of former players, managers, coaches, referees and supporters, focussed on to alterative plans for some of the big issues the game is struggling with.
The SFSA’s board includes former First Minister Henry McLeish; former MP and MSP Cathy Jamieson, and until recently Maureen McGonigle, founder of Scottish Women in Sport and the first female Scottish FA Council Member. The organisation has over 70,000 members and affiliates supporting clubs across Scotland.
The SFSA is Scotland’s fans’ representative in the Football Supporters Europe network (FSE), an independent, representative and democratically organised grass-roots network of football fans in Europe, with members in currently 48 countries across the continent.
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For further information on The SFSA please contact Paul Goodwin on 07702-252519 or Simon Barrow on 07850-120413
NOTES TO EDITORS:
SFSA is a voluntary organisation funded by donations from fans and from others who believe that supporter engagement is essential for the flourishing of the game. We work to ensure that that clubs and football governance are accountable to fans as key stakeholders in Scottish football.