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NINE bidders have entered the race to win the right to provide the site for a £25m sports academy as the Scottish Football Association moves to build for the future.
Stewart Regan, chief executive of the SFA, speaking exclusively to Herald Sport, revealed that plans for the National Performance Centre for Sport are well advanced and defended the reforms in Scottish football, claiming "sporting integrity" was "at the heart of everything" the association was doing.
Regan has been buffeted by crises involving disciplinary sanctions against both Rangers and Celtic, a referees strike and the Craig Whyte takeover of the Ibrox club since he joined the SFA only 18 months ago. The turbulence has continued with Rangers contesting a transfer embargo at the Court of Session today and the men's and women's national teams losing heavily at the weekend to USA and Sweden respectively.
However, Regan said of the SFA: "We have changed it for the better. What I have been really pleased with is that we set out to achieve something, we told people what we were going to do, we got their support and we went out and did it."
He was speaking a year after all 93 of the SFA's member clubs voted to implement all of the recommendations in the Henry McLeish report to modernise the governance of the sport in Scotland.
The main changes included the reduction of the SFA board from 11 officials to seven, a refined disciplinary procedure and the disbandment of the unwieldy committee system.
Rangers have been fined £160,000 and have been put under a transfer embargo after offences committed under the Whye regime.
"Only 18 months ago the accusation was that it was old-fashioned committees who were making decisions. Everyone talked about needing independence, transparency and speed.
"We have delivered but are now being challenged because sometimes decisions that independent committees make are not to everyone's liking," said Regan
He added: "It would have been easy to cave in. But we have done what we thought was right. At the heart of everything that a governing body is responsible for has to be sporting integrity. If you don't have sporting integrity then you might as well pack up and go home."
Regan now seeks to "drive the game forward" by pressing on with the initiative to build a performance centre. More than £25m has been pledged by the Scottish government and nine local bidders have expressed an interest in building the centre in their area.
Reagan describes the centre as the "beating heart" of Scottish football and wants it to be be used by other sports bodies. He envisages "a building with a wow factor" that will contain everything from the best facilities to the best advice on psychology, nutrition and sports science.
Regan, chairman of the steering group set up by the government to advance the project, signposted the way forward.
The bid documents are being prepared, the open tender process will then be launched and the preferred bidder will subsequently be chosen by the steering committee and presented to the Scottish government for approval.
"We are trying to get completed for 2016. That is our vision," he said. The committee has appointed James Watson, who has been involved in the building of the Olympic Village in London and the revamping of Yorkshire County Cricket Club, as a consultant to the project.