MSPS at Holyrood will debate the merits of establishing an independent regulator for Scottish football in September following the publication of a “fan-led review” of the game in this country yesterday.

The Scottish Football Alliance (TSFA) – who are described in the “Rebuilding Scottish Football” document as a “a voluntary network of individuals and organisations built around the Scottish Football Supporters’ Association (SFSA)” - have advocated going down the same route as England.

The United Kingdom government endorsed the findings of a review it launched into the governance of the game down south following a number of high-profile crises - – including the failed European Super League – in April last year and committed to establishing a regulator.

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

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Their review makes 22 “strategic recommendations” – the chief of which is the Scottish government creating an independent regulator who would work with the football authorities to “effect change” and ensure “long-term financial sustainability”.

Holyrood has been reluctant to involve itself directly in the running of the sport in this country since the Offensive Behaviour and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012 was repealed back in 2018.

Speaking at Holyrood yesterday Henry McLeish, the former First Minister who compiled a report on the state of Scottish football that was commissioned by the SFA in 2010, revealed that legislation will be required if a regulator is to be introduced.

However, he is encouraged the topic will be debated by MSPs in September and believes there is enough cross-party support for it to come to fruition.

The Herald:

“Having an independent role to oversee the game would a be a huge step, nobody could deny that,” said McLeish. “But it seems to me that we can make the game more transparent, more responsible and get more fan involvement. The regulator is important.

“It could be controversial for some, it could be hard work for others, it could be an eye opener as a lot in football is kept pretty secret. But nobody should fear the game being opened up to scrutiny. I would invite all those in the game to participate.”

He added: “We have been heartened by the involvement of the party leaders because ultimately if there is to be independent oversight it will require legislation. That is crucial. This parliament can put legislation forward itself.

“It is important that we overcome what I imagine will be inevitable resistance from clubs, from a few clubs. What we are advocating is a solution to what we perceive are a lot of problems caused by a lack of accountability.”

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Ian McMenemy, the Stenhousemuir chairman who has served on a number of SFA and SPFL committees, stated that clubs and the football authorities should not be alarmed about the prospect of a regulator being appointed by Holyrood. He predicted it could help to solve many of the game’s long-standing problems.

“Having an independent regulator for football is a big, bold step,” he said. “But I absolutely do think it will be a collegial thing. Whenever there is change there is always that initial fear of what is usually the most extreme thing it could lead to. But it very rarely does.

“I would think that if a regulator is coming, as has happened down south, then more football clubs and authorities will start to engage. I would like to think that we will make sure that by the time the regulator comes in, we will be doing things in a more open and transparent way.

“We are regulated right now by local authorities in terms of safety and numbers and disorder. We are regulated by the Scottish FA. We are regulated by the SPFL. So we are already heavily regulated. This will tie all that together and I think that will be useful.

“There will be benefits to clubs as well because we want to do things in football and we want to make change in football, but we just can’t seem to do that because of the way we have tied ourselves up in our structures and our governance processes and the way the voting mechanism works at times.

The Herald:

“We can't achieve that change because of our own self-interest and the self-interest of our own clubs or in trying to protect their own division. All these things come into play. I think a regulator might be able to help us unlock that by having that independent voice that takes all that on board and allows us to get to a point that is absolutely better for us.

“I get very, very frustrated and I speak up about it because it is the only way to get change. We have achieved some things over the last few seasons, but it has come with a fight. Everything is a battle, but it doesn't have to be that way.”

Simon Barrow of the SFSA stated that both the SFA and SPFL had not responded to emails asking them to contribute to the review. However, an SPFL spokesman said: “Given that we received no request to participate in this exercise it would inappropriate to comment.” The SFA were approached for comment.