Football traditionalist Jack Ross open to change as clubs embark on SPFL review

Hibs boss Jack Ross may be a self-confessed football traditionalist when it comes to certain areas of the game but he says that those in charge have to be willing to step outside their comfort zone if it helps to consolidate and grow the industry.

Hibernian manager Jack Ross during media access at the Hibernian Training Centre, on September 16, 2020, in Edinburgh, Scotland. (Photo by Mark Scates / SNS Group)
Hibernian manager Jack Ross during media access at the Hibernian Training Centre, on September 16, 2020, in Edinburgh, Scotland. (Photo by Mark Scates / SNS Group)

“The biggest thing we are a little bit guilty of – and I include myself in that – is being afraid of change,” he said, “but sometimes change does bring benefits and it might be that even a little bit of change can strengthen the game.

“We have a good product that a lot of people are interested in but maybe we tend to lazily rely on the fact that people will always love it and always come, rather than trying to think of ways to make sure people keep doing that. Especially future generations.”

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The Easter Road manager was addressing the decision by five of the country’s biggest clubs, outwith Celtic and Rangers, to launch an independent review of the SPFL, to ensure value for money in sponsorship and marketing deals, in the way the product is sold to television countries and what could be done to enhance finances and the promotion of the game through smarter business practices and greater collaboration.

Hibs, Hearts, Aberdeen, Dundee and Dundee United have instructed finance experts Deloitte to help pinpoint ways the annual distribution of funds can ultimately be doubled to £50m through the likes of sponsorship, partnerships and media deals.

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And, Ross believes there is no downside to such a stocktaking measure.

“It’s very difficult for me to say with any certainty that those who are in charge aren’t maximising the commercial revenues, because I know how difficult that is to do. But one thing I’ve always felt is that we don’t necessarily present our game in the best possible way all the time.

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“I’ve got a good relationship with our owner and I know that he’s blown away with how big a deal football is in Scotland and how much it matters to people. So, I do think there’s scope to market it better.

“Given how important it is to society in Scotland we might have better results if we had a more collaborative approach to marketing and investment. That’s the direction they want to take it.”

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With many of the owners involved boasting strong US links, where franchising plays a big part in sport, Ross says it is not necessarily a case of emulating everything that goes on in the MLS, MLB, NHL or NFL, but he insists there are aspects of the way sports are promoted and owners and clubs work together for the greater good that could be adopted here.

“Ron has asked me regularly about what I think we could do better in the game in Scotland. He has a genuine wish to improve – not just Hibs, but Scottish football – and some of that is born out of the background he comes from.

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“[Some of it] is completely different and can’t be compared, because there’s no relegation and it has different dynamics but they do a huge amount of collaborative work for the betterment of the league rather than individual clubs. There’s maybe things we can learn from that and we could work together more to promote the game.”

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