In the midst of a wide-ranging discussion, Campbell Ogilvie asserts that "words mean nothing".
The SFA president is referring to the fact that constantly discussing the restructuring of Scottish football will not achieve anything, only a concerted willingness to act. There are too many broken relationships in the game for change to be anything other than a disruptive topic, but Ogilvie is determined that his voice should at least be an influence.
The same applies to Rangers, and the continuing fraught relationship between the club and the governing body. Ogilvie has removed himself from any discussions at the SFA about his former club's use of Employee Benefit Trusts. Ogilvie was a director at Ibrox during the time the scheme was in place, and was the recipient of an EBT, but he resisted claims that this was cause for him to stand down as SFA president. The conflict of interest forced Ogilvie to place himself on the periphery, and he is keen to involve himself in other ongoing issues, not least the hostilities that exist between Charles Green and the SFA.
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The Rangers chief executive has been the subject of several charges of disrepute, and some of his criticisms of the governing body have been pointed. He claimed recently, for instance, that the SFA are withholding a £300,000 payment to the club from UEFA, yet the money is at the centre of a dispute between The Rangers Football Club and Rangers Football Club plc – the newco and the oldco – and will remain with the SFA until that disagreement is resolved. In the meantime, Ogilvie wants to talk to Green to try to foster a better relationship between Rangers and the SFA.
"Over my years in football, it is not the first time a club has had issues with the governing body," Ogilvie said. "I wasn't party to the discussions which took place over the last six months. I've been standing back from it, which has been awkward for me because I feel that fundamentally I've not been doing my job properly. One of things I would certainly like to do is sit down with Charles Green. As I haven't spoken to him yet, I can't really quantify the depth of his feelings. I believe by speaking to people, issues can be resolved. In my position, I should be sitting down with all clubs throughout the game."
Ogilvie is not short of causes to address, since discontent abounds. The issue of league restructuring was at the top of Scottish football's agenda at the beginning of the year until Rangers entered administration. The topic is now considered by some groups of fans as merely the means by which to return the Ibrox club to the top flight as quickly as possible, but Ogilvie rejects this notion. There are no "plans to fast-track" Rangers and "clubs will have to work their way through the system", but change remains something Ogilvie will lobby for.
He wants the SFA, if necessary, to take a leading role in the debate among clubs and their league bodies about the best structure for Scottish football. Fans are disillusioned with the top-10 format, yet there is no consensus about the best alternative. Some favour two top leagues of 12, others two top leagues of 14, while fans prefer a 16- or 18-team top division. Most are agreed that a single league body is preferable to two, and that revenue should be more fairly distributed between all member clubs.
The Professional Game Board met last Thursday to discuss league restructuring, but some relationships remain broken by the events of last summer, when the future of Rangers became such a divisive issue. "There has been fall-out and if we can't get the SFA, SPL and SFL working together then it's going to be very difficult to plan any reconstruction," Ogilvie said. He believes that the debate needs to be restarted, because as well as the short- and medium-term future of Scottish football, the long-term state of the game is at stake. Many European clubs outwith the leading five countries are suffering similar problems of reduced income, falling standards and a growing gap with the elite sides, and UEFA is considering various potential solutions, including cross-border competitions to try to stimulate income and prestige.
"We were at a UEFA meeting a year ago and there was a Supra-National League talked about," Ogilvie said. "This will be part of our debate moving forward. The big change is that Uefa have now opened the door to these discussions. Netherlands and Belgium have already done it with their women's game, splitting the season between half domestically and the other half with the teams from both countries in one competition. There could be cup competitions with different formats adopted. We have to open our minds up to various ways the game can be taken forward, not just within the confines of how it was structured in the past. The economics have changed and people's social lives have changed.
"It is only debate at the moment, we haven't gone into it in any depth, at all. I would say this model would be looked at. It is a case of balancing domestic football with another type of pan-European tournament. More people are willing to open up the debate and look at ideas that haven't been looked at before. If you go back to the 1950s, when they brought European football in, there were big clubs opposed to it. But things evolve. We are going to have to look at other opportunities. Uefa have laid down certain criteria which have to be met, but they have opened up their minds."