Henry McLeish hopes James Anderson can help attract ‘more moral’ investment to Scottish football

Former First Minister is ‘sick and tired’ of game’s reliance on betting companies
Former First Minister Henry McLeish. Picture: SNSFormer First Minister Henry McLeish. Picture: SNS
Former First Minister Henry McLeish. Picture: SNS

Henry McLeish has urged Scottish football to be creative with a potential donation from James Anderson and use the credibility provided by the Baillie Gifford partner as an opportunity to attract “more moral” investment.

The former First Minister has welcomed the philanthropist’s further involvement in the Scottish game. Anderson has already given generously to Hearts in recent years.

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He thinks Anderson can be a catalyst to attract new sponsors, with McLeish saying he is “sick and tired” of the game’s reliance on betting firms. He hopes Anderson will not be as hands-off as it is claimed he intends to be in the matter of allocating his donation.

“I am hugely encouraged that he has long term interests and there is no doubt that this involvement can lead to more than just finance at a desperate time, it can be a precursor for more inspired thinking,” said McLeish.

“Mr Anderson might not want to get involved in all that. However, I would like to think he would be the person who might want to say some of this cash might be earmarked for bigger, more ambitious thinking.”

Anderson co-runs the £11 billion Scottish Mortgage investment Trust and its success is built on long-term investments in growth companies such as Amazon and Spotify. His support and that of other wealthy backers meant Hearts could offer a shirt sponsorship deal to Save The Children in 2015.

“I am welcoming his involvement but not just seeing it through the prism of finance,” said McLeish. “This is a different kind of investor potentially in the game, a different kind of money. I am sick and tired of betting companies and their involvement in the game.

“If the game is going to reach out and get more involvement from the Government and relate to young people, you cannot do that through betting. It is not the best way to advertise anything.

“Mr Anderson can bring a breath of fresh air,” McLeish added. “His credibility might be the spur for sponsors and other financiers to take a fresh look at Scottish football. They have been struggling to attract more moral cash than betting.”

While Premiership clubs have been given a provisional target of the beginning of August to start the new season, the majority of Scottish clubs are still no nearer to knowing when they can return following the Covid-19 outbreak. The SPFLhave already confirmed that Anderson’s donation will provide support to all 42 clubs. What is not yet clear is how it will be split.

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“This (investment) must not just be a package for a few clubs in the Scottish Premiership,” said McLeish. “That would not help the current situation and indeed it would add to the frustration, anger and irritation of many of the clubs in the Championship, League One and League Two about the current redistribution.”

McLeish hopes Anderson’s donation can stretch to help ease a number of problems facing the game at present, several of which pre-date the pandemic.

McLeish published an independent review into Scottish football a decade ago and he is happy to discuss what he has learned with Anderson, should he wish to have such a conversation.

“I appreciate Mr Anderson does not want to be seen to be dictating to the game, which in some respects is very positive,” said McLeish. “But I think a recognition of the myriad current problems may help channel the money into more areas than just the immediate crisis. There are multiple crises facing the game.

“We have to look beyond the current challenges and into the future, because many challenges existed before the pandemic and they simply will not go away – league reconstruction, the future for elite talent in the country and the financial situation at the SFA.”

“There are big issues around. My concern is if there is to be a possible cash investment then it should go to benefit a number of priorities.”



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