STEVE Clarke’s immediate objectives as Scotland manager are to get his side playing well and winning matches on the park and secure a place in the Euro 2020 finals next summer as a result.

Yet, Ian Maxwell, the Scottish Football Association chief executive who successfully secured Clarke’s services last month, is hoping he will have a positive impact on the performance of the governing body off the pitch as well.

His organisation may have taken in £37.5 million in revenue in the last financial year and might have distributed a record £11 million to its member clubs. But there is still no sponsor for the national team and attendances for international matches, both competitive and friendly, are down.

Maxwell, speaking to the media following the SFA AGM at Hampden yesterday, believes that Clarke, the former Chelsea and Liverpool assistant who has transformed the fortunes of Kilmarnock in the last two seasons, can help on both of those fronts as well in the months ahead.


READ MORE: Listen: Can Steve Clarke's Scotland qualify for Euro 2020?

“He was one of those phenomenon which is a Scottish FA decision that everyone agrees with,” he said. “The positivity around it has been hugely encouraging.

“The crowd was really good against Cyprus. It was more than we thought we would get. I would like to think that, given the result, given the performance against Belgium, given that Russia is a big game for us in September, we can work hard to get close to capacity for the Russia game.

“There is a lot of positivity around a lot of elements of Scottish football, not just the national team. Steve was the popular choice among the supporters. Hearing them singing ‘Steve Clarke’s Tartan Army’ at the Cyprus game was good. They were doing the same on the bus to the game in Belgium last night. I don’t know when the last time the Tartan Army actually sang the name of the manager.”

Vauxhall ended their seven year association with England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales following the Russia 2018 finals last year and to date no replacement has been found by the SFA.

However, Maxwell, the former Partick Thistle managing director who succeeded Stewart Regan as chief executive last April, stressed that Scotland, who have failed to make it through to a finals since France ’98, doing well would aid their ongoing efforts.

“We are working hard on it,” he said. “It’s a challenge. Everybody in this sponsorship environment knows how hard it is. Look at England. They have only very recently been able to secure BT and that’s a country that got to the World Cup semi-final. So it is not easy.


READ MORE: Can Scotland qualify for the Euro 2020 finals next summer?

“We are having a number of ongoing conversations and it is something that we are very keen to fill in the blank. What we have managed to do is complete a number of partner transactions at slightly lower level. They have helped to fill that sponsorship void.

“It is something we are very keen to do. I think we are the victims of 20 years of not qualifying. Sponsors want to see their products and their branding at the highest level in world competitions. It’s football and a lot of things hinge on success on the pitch. That would give us an opportunity to do that.”

The SFA announced last September that they would be buying Hampden from Queen’s Park for £5 million. But in February it was suggested that negotiations over the sale of the stadium had stalled and the deal has still not been finalised.

Maxwell, however, is confident that agreement will be reached imminently. “It is very, very close,” he said “It is a complicated transaction. Buying anything isn’t straightforward when there are lawyers involved. There is always a lot to it.

“But we are very close to concluding that and hopefully we can make an announcement within the next couple of weeks. It’s just taking a bit longer than we would have liked for a variety of different reasons, but it’s all on track.”

Maxwell arranged a meeting between Ladbrokes Premiership managers and referees’ representatives at McDiarmid Park back in January following a series of high-profile controversies and growing unhappiness about the standard of officiating in this country. He admitted that the introducing Video Assistant Referees (VAR) had moved closer as a result.


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“Both Scottish FA and SPFL staff have been on a number of trips to see similar size leagues and infrastructures, to see exactly how to implement it,” he said.

“It’s not straightforward. FIFA said at the time it takes about 18 months to implement it. There are different mechanisms, whether you use a central hub or vans at games. We need to understand the best mechanism for Scottish football, whether it’s in every game or in some games.

“We are in the process of finalising that detail. I’m sure in time there will be a decision which will go to the clubs.”

Maxwell defended Clare Whyte, the SFA compliance officer who has been heavily criticised by players, managers and clubs following some of the retrospective punishments which have and have not been dished out by the disciplinary panel, and expressed confidence there would be less unrest in the 2019/20 campaign.

“It’s not the compliance officer who has been contentious, it’s the disciplinary process,” he said. “They are two separate things.

“Clare doesn’t make decisions in terms of what comes out the other end of the disciplinary process. That’s a referee panel, a judicial panel.


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“She is a year into the job. A year into any job at the Scottish FA, you learn an awful lot. The clubs know her a bit better and understand her a bit better. We’ll see how the season unfolds.”

Maxwell admitted there would be a review of the Scottish Cup, the final of which will take place at Hampden on May 9 next year, two weeks before the final Premiership match, going forward.

“There’s a few things we want to look at and replays is one of them,” he said. “I was at the Highland League meeting last year and they wanted to go to penalties after 90 minutes rather than having extra time and replays. The scheduling is difficult with the winter break and it’s something we will look at.”

Meanwhile, Maxwell admitted he had still not heard from his Russian counterparts about where the Euro 2020 qualifier in October will be played even though UEFA rules stipulate they must name their venue 120 days in advance.

“I saw the Russian delegation at the FIFA Congress and they mentioned Moscow but it wasn’t official,” he said. “I’m sure we will have word from them.”