Ian Maxwell has pledged to “shape a better future for Scottish football” after his widely anticipated appointment as the new chief executive of the SFA was confirmed yesterday.
The 42-year-old Partick Thistle managing director will leave the Firhill club at the end of the season and take up his new position at Hampden on 21 May, earning an estimated salary of £300,000.
Maxwell becomes only the ninth person to be the administrative head of the SFA since the role was first created 136 years ago when John McDowall became the organisation’s first secretary.
There is an echo of that history in Maxwell’s arrival as, like McDowall, he began his career in football as a Queen’s Park player. Maxwell went on to make over 500 senior appearances, also serving Ross County, St Johnstone, St Mirren and Partick Thistle.
He became assistant manager at Thistle under Ian McCall in 2010, before switching to the boardroom in 2011 as general manager. He has been managing director since 2014.
Maxwell is now taking on one of the most challenging and thankless jobs in Scottish football.
Among the first issues in his in-tray will be this summer’s decision on whether the SFA will remain at Hampden Park or move to Murrayfield, along with the imminent publication of the independent review into historical sexual abuse in Scottish football.
Maxwell will not face the media until he formally starts work at the SFA next month but expressed his initial delight at his appointment in a brief statement on the organisation’s website.
“This is a very proud moment for myself and my family,” he said. “Scottish football has been my life, from playing to coaching and on to managing a club. I am hugely excited about the role and facing into the big issues that we will need to tackle.
“The game means so much to so many in this country. I will work tirelessly to serve all our members, support and lead the Scottish FA’s staff and help bring everyone together to shape a better future for Scottish football.”
Maxwell replaces Stewart Regan who, after eight years in the job, resigned three months ago in the aftermath of the failed attempt to recruit Michael O’Neill from Northern Ireland as the new Scotland manager.
SFA president Alan McRae, who subsequently oversaw the appointment of Alex McLeish as national team boss, outlined his confidence that Maxwell is the right man to lead the organisation off the pitch.
“Ian will bring a huge amount of football knowledge to the role,” said McRae. “He has built up a terrific reputation in the industry and is respected across the game.
“Ian emerged from a robust recruitment process which attracted interest from a range of candidates across the UK and beyond. We were convinced that Ian’s track record, communication skills and leadership qualities will allow him to grasp the challenges of today and fulfil our potential as an association and as a footballing nation in the future.”
Maxwell stepped down from his position as a director on the Scottish FA’s main board last month in order to free himself to apply for the chief executive vacancy.
He is viewed as someone who can forge closer links in the often strained relationship between those at the top of the Scottish FA and Scottish Professional Football League.
Neil Doncaster, the chief executive of the SPFL, replaced Maxwell on the Scottish FA board and he was quick to offer his own endorsement of his new counterpart on Hampden’s sixth floor.
“This is clearly a crucial appointment for the SFA and for Scottish football more widely,” said Doncaster.
“Ian combines a superb track record of innovation and delivery as an administrator with a well-earned reputation as a ‘football man’. He is highly respected at all levels of the game and will command respect amongst clubs, fans and other partners. Having seen his positive impact on our SPFL Competitions Working Group, particularly driving change in the Betfred and IRN-BRU Cups, everyone at the SPFL is really looking forward to working with him for the good of the game.”
Partick Thistle, still battling to preserve their Premiership status this season, have started their own search for a new managing director with their Academy director Gerry Britton poised to take interim charge. Maxwell’s contribution to the club was praised by Thistle chairman David Beattie.
“Ian Maxwell has been one of Thistle’s best signings,” said Beattie. “When I asked him to become our general manager back in 2011, he hesitated as he believed his future in football was as a manager. But I think Ian would agree that, together, we have been on an amazing journey since then. He’s played a major part in the transformation of Thistle and he leaves a club that’s almost unrecognisable from when he joined us.
“We are very sorry to see Ian go but this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for him. On behalf of everyone associated with the club and our fans, we wish him all the best in his new role. Ian knows he will always be welcome at Firhill.
While Maxwell will have to adopt a strictly neutral position at the SFA, he admitted Thistle will always retain a special place in his affections.
“I am sorry to be leaving Partick Thistle,” said Maxwell. “When I signed as a player nearly 10 years ago no one could have predicted I would be leaving as managing director. However, the journey over that time both on and off the pitch has been an absolute pleasure to be part of.
“I’ve built strong relationships with everyone, from fans, players, staff, management, volunteers through to the board, and I can’t speak highly enough of everyone associated with the club and their support for me over that time. The Thistle result will always be the first one I look for on a Saturday and I wish the club every success in future.”