Plan to save Scottish game is progressing, claims McLeish

Former First Minister says 2009 review has had an impact despite 'fear factor' north of the border

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The Independent Football

Henry McLeish has hailed the progress already made as a result of his review into Scottish football but believes a "fear factor" still exists within the game north of the border.

The former First Minister made 103 recommendations as part of his two-part review, which was commissioned by the Scottish Football Association in May 2009. Those recommendations were unanimously approved at the SFA's AGM six months ago, with 27 having now been completed, 71 in progress and five not yet started.

Mark Wotte has been appointed as the first ever performance director and the SFA's disciplinary system has been overhauled, but discussions remain ongoing on the issue of league reconstruction.

McLeish said: "In a curious way, I'm not disappointed. My expectations were reasonably modest. Seven or eight of my recommendations were about the competitive nature of Scottish football, about league reconstruction, about integration, pyramid structure, relegation and promotion. I didn't expect that these changes would be approved or implemented in a short period of time. What I am buoyed by is that the SFA, SPL and SFL are working very closely together to move those recommendations forward.

"The reason I think there is hesitation in moving quickly forward is there is a fear factor around Scottish football. There is a fear of failure, there is a fear of finance or the lack of it, and we see a situation where the economic environment is poor and getting poorer. Against that background, the clubs are very reluctant to make big decisions that will not only influence their day-to-day activities but their life for the years ahead. In 1998-99 we changed, in 2001-02 we changed. We are talking about changes in 2011-12.

"What we do now has got to remain for a long period of time so we can bring security, stability and sustainability to the game. If we are going to make change we have to get it right and it has to be there for a long time so we can make it work."

On the whole, McLeish has been heartened by progress made so far in his bid to improve Scottish football. He said: "The wind of change is blowing through the football authorities and, in particular at this stage, the SFA. We have a situation where more progress has been made in the last six months than the last 60 years.

"That's a major step forward for a game that had major difficulties, faced major problems and is experiencing major challenges. We have made significant progress."

Rangers winger Sone Aluko is the latest player to experience the SFA's new disciplinary system, with his case of alleged simulation set to be heard by a fast track tribunal today.

McLeish believes the changes made, in order to make the process quicker and more transparent, have been successful. He said: "I think they have gone well. This was one of the real issues that emerged because we had difficulties with referees and with some of the football clubs questioning decisions.

"Apart from the changes that have been implemented and are ongoing, what I also hope is that we are building up more respect and more trust. There was a lack of trust, a lack of respect, a lack of common courtesy within the game. The disciplinary procedure will take time to settle in.

"There are still challenges that lie ahead but the main thing is a message to the clubs. The clubs have got to realise that you do need regulation, you do need discipline and everybody has got to be responsible.

"If that happens, I think the disciplinary procedures will be much easier to implement."