MSPs discuss the introduction of an independent regulator of Scottish football

The Scottish Football Alliance (TSFA) – described in the Rebuilding Scottish Football document as “a voluntary network of individuals and organizations around the Scottish Football Supporters’ Association (SFSA)” – has advocated going down the same path as England.

The UK government has confirmed the findings of a review it launched in April last year after a series of major crises – including the failed European Super League – into the governance of football in the South and pledged to set up a regulator.

The TFSA spoke to officials from over 90 clubs, the Scottish League Managers’ Association and PFA Scotland over a two-year period, as well as former chief executives, international players, coaches, managers and administrators. An online survey also received 2,500 responses.

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Their review makes 22 “strategic recommendations” – the most important of which is the creation by the Scottish Government of an independent regulator that would work with football authorities to “bring about change” and ensure “long-term financial sustainability”.

Since the Offensive Behavior and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012 was repealed in 2018, Holyrood has been reluctant to become directly involved in the governance of the sport in that country.

Henry McLeish, the former First Minister who prepared a 2010 report on the state of Scottish football for the SFA, revealed in his speech in Holyrood yesterday that legislation would be needed to bring in a regulator.

However, he is confident that the issue will be debated by MSPs in September and believes there is enough bipartisan support for it to bear fruit.


“It would be a big step to have an independent role to oversee the game, no one could deny that,” McLeish said. “But it seems to me that we can make the game more transparent and accountable and involve the fans more. The regulator is important.

“For some it could be controversial, for others it could be hard work, it could be an eye-opener as a lot of things in football are kept quite secret. But nobody should be afraid that the game will be subjected to scrutiny. I would invite everyone involved in the game to join in.”

He added: “We have been encouraged by the commitment of party leaders because ultimately if there is to be independent oversight there needs to be legislation.” That is crucial. This Parliament can introduce laws itself.

“It is important that we overcome what I believe is inevitable opposition from some clubs. What we advocate is a solution to many problems that we believe are caused by a lack of accountability.”

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Stenhousemuir chairman Ian McMenemy, who has served on several SFA and SPFL committees, said clubs and the football authorities should not be alarmed at the prospect of Holyrood appointing a regulator. He predicted that it could help solve many of the game’s long-standing problems.

“Having an independent regulatory body for football is a big, bold step,” he said. “But I absolutely believe it’s going to be a collegial thing. With any change, there is first the fear of what is usually most extreme and what it might lead to. But that is very rarely the case.

“I think if a regulator comes along, as has happened in the south, then more football clubs and authorities will get involved. I believe that by the time the regulator comes into force, we will ensure that we are more open and transparent about things.

“We are currently regulated by local authorities in terms of safety, numbers and disorder. We are regulated by the Scottish Football Association. We are regulated by the SPFL. So we are already heavily regulated. That will tie everything together and I think that will be useful.

“There will also be benefits for the clubs because we want to make a difference in football and make changes in football, but we just can’t do that because we’ve got stuck in our structures and in our governance processes and the way and way the voting mechanism works at times.


“We cannot achieve this change out of our own interest and the self-interest of our own clubs or in an attempt to protect their own division. All of these things play a role. I think a regulator could help us achieve that by having that independent voice that takes all of that into account and allows us to go to a point that’s absolutely better for us.

“I’m very, very frustrated and I’m talking about this because it’s the only way to bring about change. We’ve achieved a lot in recent seasons, but it’s come with a struggle. Everything is a struggle, but it doesn’t have to be that way.”

The SFSA’s Simon Barrow said both the SFA and SPFL had not responded to emails asking them to contribute to the review. However, an SPFL spokesman said: “As we have not received a request to participate in this exercise, comment would be inappropriate.” The SFA has been asked for comment.

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