Crisis of governance in Scottish Football

Published on Friday 13th July, 2012 by Celtic Trust

Time for a Regulator to step in?

The Celtic Trust welcomes and echoes the sentiments contained in the Hibernian FC Supporters Club statement of 8th July 2012.

It is our view that sporting integrity demands that the new footballing company formed by Charles Green – if they can satisfy SFA Membership criteria, whatever they actually are, should start at the most appropriate tier of Scottish Football. This by general consensus and, leaving aside for the moment, club licensing requirements, is the third tier of the Scottish Football League.

Like our counterparts at Hibernian we share their concerns about the way the collapse of Rangers has been handled by the SPL and SFA and have grave concerns about the implications this is having for the future integrity of our game.

We agree with the SFA that Scottish football needs reforming and welcome the opportunity recent events provide for reconstructing leagues etc but we believe that by equating the good of Scottish football with the good of Rangers as was, the SFA have made a grave error of judgement in terms of integrity and risk destroying the very thing they are trying to achieve – a healthy professional football environment in Scotland, We further believe that their methods have  only reinforced the  previous mistrust in them as the responsible governors of Scottish Football.

In April 2010 we conveyed to the SFA the loss of confidence the Celtic support felt in the SFA’s ability to govern properly.  Despite the encouraging McLeish reforms voted for in June 2011, we have now lost all confidence that the SFA as currently constituted, particularly in terms of its role and relationship with the SPL, is suitable for purpose. We asked for transparency and accountability back then; we got some of the former but none of the latter.

We note that the Hibernian Supporters call on all SPL clubs to urgently address the damage being done to Scottish football.  We agree on the need for this but have concerns about trying to fix a problem with the same thinking that created it and we believe that external intervention is required.  One candidate for this, possibly the only candidate,  is Holyrood.

We appreciate that UEFA and FIFA do not like Government interference in football but assistance and facilitation are not interference. There is within the Scottish Government a Cross Party Group on Sport chaired by Margo MacDonald and we suggest that they look to England where a cross party group of MPs working voluntary were able to examine the issues facing English football and make recommendations for addressing them in a process that did not fall foul of UEFA/FIFA’s policy on keeping Government at arms length.  See

What has emerged, as indicated in the Hibernian statement, is the key role Sky has had and continues to have in the destiny of our game. We believe they have, albeit unwittingly, damaged it by paying the large sums that they do to our next door neighbour in the EPL even though having a lucrative Scottish subscriber base and seemingly, if Mr Doncaster is to be believed, have asked for contract conditions that if true, themselves undermine the integrity of the SPL competition.

UEFA too have a role to play, Mr Platini has spoken about the need to preserve sporting integrity. Well if the SPL figures are to be believed, and we think they are questionable, then the price of upholding integrity in Scotland is £16 million and UEFA could be approached to help meet it during reconstruction in order to facilitate it.

Looking more deeply at UEFA’s role there is an argument that by allocating all Champions League winnings to the title winning team, they have, again unwittingly, contributed to the pursuit of reckless policies by our clubs, one which has gone to ruin as a result. 

It also clear that the SFA and SPL instruments and articles of governance do not provide clarity on the governing process.  There are aspects of governance eg accountability which need to be examined to identify and correct inherent flaws.

We therefore believe that all these factors ie the role of

  • Sky
  • UEFA
  • Fit and proper Governance

can only be addressed if someone external to the game is prepared to take a leadership role and that role, given the importance of football to the fabric and culture of Scotland, has to come from the Scottish Government.

We therefore call on the First Minister, through the Cross Party Group on Sport, Chaired by Margo MacDonald, drawing on all areas of expertise and using any relevant findings from the all party report on English football to become actively involved in the saving of Scottish football or state why they cannot.






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