LEEANN Dempster of Hibs has emerged as the surprise early frontrunner to replace Stewart Regan as chief executive of the Scottish FA, after the Englishman yesterday took the decision to step down from his position after nearly eight years at the association. While the former chief executive of Yorkshire County Cricket Club has been credited with streamlining the SFA committee system, implementing a more transparent and independent disciplinary process and introducing a new performance strategy, he had come under fire from member clubs for presiding over the nation’s continuing failure to lead the men’s A team to a major finals and for pursuing a wrong-headed appointment strategy which ultimately failed to recruit Michael O’Neill as Gordon Strachan’s replacement as Scotland manager.

There have been other grumbles from rank and file clubs about the SFA’s handling of Project Brave, lack of movement on a finding a successor to Vauxhall as national team sponsor when that deal expires in the summer, with confusion also as to whether the Scotland national team will end its historic association with Hampden Park this summer to move on a 20-year lease to Murrayfield.

His decision to step down was made public immediately following a discussion of the SFA’s main board yesterday, and Herald Sport understands that the idea of making Dempster the association’s first female chief executive is already gaining currency within the Hampden hierarchy. Dempster, a former account director at an advertising agency, has been part of the furniture of domestic Scottish club football for a decade, moving from the chief executive role at Motherwell to Hibs and is well-placed to marry the various strands of the sport. Her chairman at Hibs, Rod Petrie, who will move on from vice president to the SFA president’s role in the summer of 2019, is one admirer, although she would have to relinquish her position at Easter Road to move up to Scottish football’s top job.

While there is no shortage of work to be done, the SFA – who usually use a head-hunting firm to fill such posts - are thought to be prepared to bide their time to ensure they make the correct appointment. It is believed that a new national team manager could even be appointed before the chief executive is in place.