Reformer McLeish says SFA 'decades out of date'

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The Independent Football

Scotland's former First Minister Henry McLeish has delivered swingeing criticism of the country's Football Association in the second half of his review, branding the governing body "decades out of date".

It was back in April that McLeish published the first part of his review of Scottish football, exploring the grassroots of the game, while this concluding section deals with structures, leadership and governance.

The 106-page document details key recommendations, some of which mirror proposals by the Scottish Premier League's own strategic review group which will be put to the 12 top-flight clubs on Monday, including a two-tier SPL of 10 teams each and an earlier start date to the season.

McLeish also wants the SPL and the Scottish Football League to combine to create one league structure, the introduction of a pyramid system in the Scottish game and a complete overhaul of the SFA's structures, organisation and decision-making processes.

McLeish's review was commissioned by the SFA president, George Peat, in May 2009 and the former First Minister believes modernisation of the governing body is essential as part of the radical reforms.

He said: "We need the major organisation to be fit for purpose in 2010 and not to be burdened by history, the legacy of the institution and outdated methods and procedures.

"I make no apology for pains-takingly going through each aspect of the SFA and coming out with some radical conclusions and recommendations.

"I've been very hard-hitting because the situation demanded no less. I was quite surprised to find that we had an organisation in 2010 that was working on a basis which was many decades out of date.

"Change is very difficult and, for some, change can be impossible.

"What I found encouraging is that they are now beginning to realise that the problems, the opportunities and challenges facing the game require a completely different SFA.

"That's why I had no qualms about suggesting to the president and the board a root-and-branch reform. You cannot possibly achieve your true potential if you have a structure that is so outdated."

Under the recommendations, the SFA disciplinary and general purposes committees would be scrapped in favour of a new, all-encompassing judicial panel, with McLeish describing the recent referees issue as one of Scottish football's "blackest moments".

The nine standing committees of the SFA would be replaced by two new partnerships – the professional and community boards – and the roles and responsibilities of the president would be reviewed.

Asked if he expects reforms to be embraced or opposed, McLeish said: "I am confident these proposals have struck a chord with the powers-that-be in the game. You don't need to be Albert Einstein to realise the game is not in good condition and opportunities for change don't come up very regularly.

"There are discussions within the SPL as well. The timing is right. My feedback so far is that this is being embraced. That doesn't mean to say that all the recommendations will be taken on board but I remain confident that this is a time when Scottish football can move forward.

"There are no silver bullets and there are no easy solutions but I remain very confident. This will be the most radical restructuring of the SFA since its inception in the latter part of the 19th century."

While accepting some fundamental changes would have to go before the AGM, McLeish was hopeful progress could be made on a vast number of the recommendations in weeks and months, rather than months and years.

Peat said: "It was my original intention to sanction a report that was wide-ranging in its investigation of Scottish football and uncompromising in its recommendations. I have not been disappointed by Henry's work.

"The Scottish FA have shown a willingness to embrace change and there is a determination within the board and the organisation to provide a world-class service to Scottish football.

"This report includes many sobering realities for us and the game in general but we will not shy away from our responsibilities. We are committed to change and we believe now is the time to act for the sake of game at all levels, from grassroots to elite performance.

"I have been encouraged by the help and support of the Scottish Premier League and Scottish Football League in this regard and together we can implement measures that will ensure a more prosperous future for the game."