SCOTTISH Football Association chief executive Stewart Regan celebrated an extended sponsorship deal with bookmakers
William Hill tonight, but said that continued doubt over league reconstruction was hindering more cash from coming into the game.
In a wide-ranging examination of the problems facing Scottish football, Regan also said that his organisation reserved the right to ask further questions of Rangers if they were not satisfied by the current report into the Ibrox club from law firm Pinsent Masons. He insisted, however, that Rangers supporters had his sympathies, and he praised manager Ally McCoist and director Walter Smith for their efforts.
William Hill have agreed a two-year extension to their sponsorship of the Scottish Cup, which will keep them as title sponsors up to 2016. Their current agreement extends until next season’s final. “The partnership has been really successful,” Regan said. “William Hill’s market and customers are largely football fans and we’re delighted to have such a big brand.”
Then, although careful to acknowledge the SPL’s independence in matters such as sponsorship, he said it was clear why new investors in the game were hard to come by. The top flight’s current deal with Clydesdale Bank is about to expire, and potential successors have yet to emerge. “Their sponsorship is a matter for the league itself. It’s no surprise that, with so much uncertainty in the shape of the competition; the number of teams; whether there’s play-offs; one or two leagues, it’s difficult to give certainty to commercial partners.
“I know there’s work going on in the background. Hopefully, reconstruction will deliver some positive outcomes so we can get some certainty for the fans in particular, as well as the club chairmen. I’ve always been a ‘glass half-full’ person and think we’ve worked really hard to try to get reconstruction in place.
“It’s been on the agenda for many years, long before I arrived in Scotland, but I’ve been pushing this for the past two-and-a-half years with my colleagues from the two leagues. Whilst there’s a chink of light that something can be put in place, we shouldn’t lose that opportunity and should still try to see if we can deliver it.
“It’s going to take more than one quick fix to turn the game around. There will be a number of factors, finance being one. To attract money, you have to have something to sell. League reconstruction is aimed at being more attractive to the fans and the commercial partners. We also want to develop better players and that is where the performance strategy comes in. You need the catalyst and, for me, league reconstruction is the catalyst.”
The difficulties faced by Rangers have arguably been as big a disincentive to potential investors in the top flight, and recent revelations regarding past directors at Ibrox have added to speculation that the club could in certain circumstances even lose its membership of the SFA. Regan refused to add to such speculation, but did say he and his colleagues would do all they could to establish the facts about what happened under previous owner Craig Whyte and former chairman Charles Green.
“It would be wrong to speculate, as there is so much detail that has to be gathered and clarified. It would be scaremongering to suggest that. We have asked a number of specific questions relating to what went on in the period leading up to liquidation and the period surrounding the transfer of membership.
“We will be managing Rangers as we manage all our clubs. Obviously, the uncertainty and kind of turmoil that is going on at the club is a cause of concern for most people, particularly the fans. You have got to feel for the fans, given what they have had to endure for the last 18 months or so.
“They thought they had a new dawn with Messrs Green and [Imran] Ahmad coming in and it has turned sour on them
again. You have to feel sorry for them. We’re all just hoping the board can get it sorted out and get them back on an even keel again.
“I can’t believe after 12 months we are still talking about Rangers, the machinations in the boardroom and what may or may not have been the case. I’d thought for the fans’ sake that it would be a bright new dawn.
To be fair to the club, I think men like Ally McCoist and
Walter Smith also thought we would have moved on.
“There are some very specific questions we have asked that require some very specific answers. If we don’t get those answers, we reserve the right to further investigation.
“The nature of the questions we have asked relate to the links between Green, Ahmad and Whyte, the details surrounding money that was lodged in
Ahmad’s mother’s bank account and various conversations that allegedly took place. We should get some specific answers on those.
“We have seen the scope of the Pinsent Mason report; it is very detailed and thorough.
We expect to see quite a lot of detail when it comes back in the near future.”
Despite everything, Regan
appears to have retained his
natural optimism. But that could be challenged if, a year from now, Scottish football is still struggling with the same problems it is facing at present. “I’ve been spinning lots of plates for what feels like 12, 18 months now, but don’t forget all the positive things that are going on, particularly in the grassroots side of the game,” he insisted.
“I’m so proud of what [SFA
director of footbal development] Jim Fleeting and his team have done under the radar, completely restructuring the game. We now have one national plan for the non-professional game for the first time ever.
“Every part of the non-pro game has bought into it and we have doubled the number of Quality Mark clubs across the country. We are trying to increase the number of coaches, volunteers, players and referees.
“There’s some great work
behind the scenes and that
just gets lost amidst all the negativity at the top end of the game. I really hope that we’re not
sitting here 12 months later and no further forward.”
William Hill extends cup deal
William Hill has extended its sponsorship of the Scottish Cup for a further two years.
The betting firm and the Scottish Football Association announced the seven-figure deal, which sees the relationship continue until 2016, ahead of Sunday’s final between Hibernian and Celtic. The existing partnership had a year to run.
SFA chief executive Stewart Regan said: “We have been absolutely delighted with the partnership with William Hill and especially pleased that they have today reaffirmed their commitment to Scottish football. In a tough economic climate for Scottish football, it is reassuring that one of the United Kingdom’s most established brand names have demonstrated that they are a passionate and imaginative supporter.”
Celtic and Hibs both reached the final following 4-3 extra-time wins, the Glasgow side edging a rollercoaster affair with Dundee United after Pat Fenlon’s men had come back from three down against Falkirk.
Kristof Fahy at William Hill said: “Above all it’s the passionate support of fans in Scotland that continues to attract our sponsorship.”