Backers of change at SFA deny bid to seize power

THE man behind four proposals to be put to the annual general meeting of the Scottish Football Association next month has denied claims that they are an attempt by leading members of the Scottish Premier Football League to seize more money and power.
Mike Mulraney, chairman of Alloa Athletic, wants change. Picture: SNSMike Mulraney, chairman of Alloa Athletic, wants change. Picture: SNS
Mike Mulraney, chairman of Alloa Athletic, wants change. Picture: SNS

Alloa Athletic chairman Mike Mulraney believes that, far from trying to “hijack” the SFA, his proposals are designed to further the reforms that were introduced a year ago when the old SPL and Scottish Football League were reunited into a single body.

The proposals, seconded by Bill Darroch of Stenhousemuir, Les Gray of Hamilton and Eric Riley of Celtic, have the support of other leading SPFL figures and will be discussed at the agm on 27 May. Three suggest rule changes, while the fourth is a recommendation, to be considered by the SFA board. To be passed, each proposal needs at least three quarters of the SFA’s 94-strong membership to vote in favour.

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Proposal one is for the Professional Game Board (PGB) to have two representatives rather than the current one on the seven-person SFA board. Proposal two advocates the scrapping of the criteria a candidate has to satisfy to become SFA president or vice-president, such as serving four years on the SFA council.

Proposal three is for the PGB to take charge of the football development budget. And proposal four would see the SFA board lose its ability to elect any club to full membership, with that power passing instead to current member clubs.

The Sunday newspaper which revealed the proposals yesterday suggested they were about “two things – control and cash”. But Mulraney insisted that he and his colleagues were primarily concerned with the good of the game.

“We’ve done an enormous amount in the past ten months and there’s a desire to keep moving forward,” he said. “The first two proposals, for example – I don’t think they’re too contentious.

“The SFA admit their structure is pretty archaic, and this is an attempt to make senior office more open to able candidates. Look at Mark Carney at the Bank of England: under SFA rules, he would never have been able to become governor, because he had not served on the council for four years or attended a set number of meetings. But the bank thought he was the best person for the job. Similarly, we want senior SFA posts to be open to the best candidates – not just to people who have been there for a certain length of time.”

Critics of the proposals believe that they may appear innocuous when regarded in isolation, but together they represent a serious challenge to some of the most positive work being carried out by the SFA. Some figures within the governing body are also understood to be perplexed by what they see as a new attempt at significant restructuring, only a year after a coherent new framework for the national sport was agreed.

Perhaps the most significant threat, as perceived by the SFA and its allies, is to grassroots funding. Organisations such as Tesco Bank and McDonald’s invest in the game at community level, and could be concerned if the money they put in came under the control, or even partial control, of leading SPFL figures.

Responding to that suggestion, Mulraney said he and his colleagues had no intention of grabbing funds or endangering current investment. “We don’t want the money. We want it to be spent properly.

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“We want stable and sensible progress. Of course the grassroots should be cultivated properly – we believe in the grass roots. Apart from anything else, that’s where our own players come from.

“As for our fourth proposal, we don’t want to shut clubs out of SFA membership, but we think it fair that the clubs have a say on new members. We want a reasonable growth.”

The SFA and SPFL boards are due to meet tomorrow, and Mulraney insisted that he, for one, would adopt a conciliatory approach. “Good progress has been made already between the SPFL and the SFA.

“For any one person, be it us or the SFA, to think they’ve got all the answers is arrogant. We simply want to continue to discuss proposals that we think are for the good of the game.”

A spokesperson for the SFA said: “Any member club is permitted to propose a resolution.”