McLeish report: A background of discontent as football review arrives

HENRY McLEISH will unveil the first part of his review of Scottish football at Hampden this morning amid fresh demands from supporters for radical changes in the game.

• McLeish: started his review last May. Picture: SNS

Former First Minister McLeish started his review last May and was originally scheduled to release his initial findings in January this year. As he prepares finally to make them public three months later than planned, a major survey of fans from all clubs in Scotland has underlined the level of dissatisfaction towards the current product. More than 1300 supporters were polled by Supporters Direct, a full-time organisation who assist in the setting up of supporters' Trusts at various clubs, is highly critical of both the structure and administration of the sport in Scotland.

The existing senior league format, which sees clubs facing each other four times a season in both the Scottish Premier League and Scottish Football League, was condemned by 96 per cent of respondents. Reverting to a system which sees clubs play each other just twice a season was backed by 83 per cent.

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More than 90 per cent expressed their support for a streamlined administration which would see the SFA, SPL and SFL amalgamated to run the professional game. The survey also suggests most supporters feel a sense of dislocation towards the governing bodies, with 91 per cent seeking greater involvement from fans in the administration of the game.

James Proctor, development manager of Supporters Direct in Scotland, said: "These results clearly show the depth to which fans feel disenchanted and disempowered by the current set-up of Scottish football. They think that there is a lot that needs to be improved but believe they are powerless to influence the required changes.

"With the publication of the Henry McLeish report imminent, the message to football's hierarchy is that fans are passionate and committed to the game but want to see significant improvement in how it is organised and run. They have also stated powerfully that they want to be involved in those discussions. Supporters Direct would therefore welcome dialogue with the other bodies and hope that the publication of this survey, along with the debate around the McLeish report, can provide the momentum to bring about positive improvement in the game in Scotland."

There are currently 34 Supporters' Trusts in Scotland covering clubs in the SPL, all three divisions of the SFL as well as one Junior club and two senior non-league clubs. In total, they have around 15,000 members and have invested 3.5 million in clubs.

Supporters Direct conducted their survey over a three-week period. It is not clear, however, whether McLeish will immediately address the issues raised in the survey. When he set out the terms of his review last year, McLeish stated that the first and second phases of it would deal with grassroots football and youth development. The third phase will look at the way in which the first two phases should influence and inform the way the professional game is run. It is also in the third phase that McLeish intended to deal with "other issues relating to the professional game".