Under-fire Gordon Smith makes abrupt exit from post as SFA chief

GORDON Smith's three-year reign as chief executive of the Scottish Football Association came to a dramatic and unexpected end yesterday when he resigned for what were described as personal reasons – just a day after a club chairman called his position "untenable" in a row over player discipline.

• Gordon Smith's position was described as 'untenable' at the weekend. Picture: Neil Hanna

A brief statement from Hampden did no more than confirm the 55-year-old's departure and promise more information today. "The Scottish FA can confirm that Gordon Smith has resigned from his post as chief executive," the statement read. "A further statement will be issued tomorrow."

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Smith has been regularly embroiled in controversy since he took over from David Taylor in June 2007, but has invariably come out fighting. However, he has yet to make any sustained defence of his behaviour in the matter which hit the headlines over the weekend, when he came under heavy fire from Livingston chairman Gordon McDougall over his hand in a disciplinary case involving Robbie Winters.

Smith has so far only said he had "no problem" with anyone looking into his involvement in the Winters case. This attitude suggests his resignation was not directly caused by it, and cannot be regarded as tantamount to an admission of guilt.

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But the controversy arising from it may turn out to have been the straw that broke the camel's back. With a family illness to deal with and an increasing feeling that the speed of change within the SFA was too slow, Smith could have felt that the row over Winters was one hassle too far. That would certainly appear to be more in character than any decision that he had in some way done wrong and had to pay with his job.

McDougall's charge that Smith's position was "untenable" came after he claimed that the chief executive had personally intervened to get a committee to charge the Livingston player with deceiving a match official and ignored his own organisation's disciplinary procedures.

In a match on 20 February East Stirlingshire's Mike Bolochoweckyj was red-carded for fouling Winter but claimed the forward had dived. Smith was understood to have agreed and the disciplinary case went ahead – but was swiftly dismissed when it was heard.

McDougall, who has written to SFA president George Peat demanding a full independent inquiry, said Smith had to carry the can for exceeding his powers. "Gordon Smith over-stepped his authority and his own committee threw out the case," the Livingston chairman, who spent 12 years serving on SFA committees, said at the weekend.

"Who shoulders that responsibility? One man. This leaves him in an untenable position within the SFA in my view.

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"At the least, I see it as conduct which could see the chief executive's position scrutinised. It's incumbent on him to make sure his case is correct, but there were so many mistakes in one set of documents."

McDougall last night confirmed that he had received an acknowledgement from Peat of his letter, and was awaiting a fuller reply. He had been told to expect that reply yesterday, but understood that the SFA president had probably been kept too busy by Smith's resignation.

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Asked if he had been told whether that resignation was related to his complaint, McDougall said he had not, and expressed some sympathy with Smith. "It's too early to tell if the complaint had anything to do with it. There's no great satisfaction in seeing someone leave his job."

The SFA's delay in issuing any real explanation of the reasons for Smith's departure is understood to be because severance negotiations had not been completed. If a confidentiality agreement is reached with their former employee they may not offer any more substantial explanation today.

Smith, who gave up his dual careers as a football agent and media pundit to take the SFA job, quickly gained a higher profile than his predecessor. He played a prominent role in the appointments of George Burley and Craig Levein as Scotland managers, and was also active in international footballing matters.

The appointment of Levein was just one issue on which Smith and his colleagues clashed with a member club. In this instance Dundee United chairman Stephen Thompson complained that the SFA had treated his club "shabbily" and "disgracefully" over the issue of compensation for the manager's services.

Although at times he was at variance with Scottish clubs, Smith enjoyed more harmonious relations with other administrators at world and European level. That harmony, however, did not always yield positive results: he helped get the European Championships expanded from 16 to 24 teams, for instance, but was unable to convince Fifa to expand the use of technology to assist referees.

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One criticism levelled at Smith during his time in the post was that he could appear to make policy on the hoof. That criticism was heard most loudly when he publicly questioned the meaning of the "lifetime bans" from representing Scotland imposed to Barry Ferguson and Allan McGregor after a late-night drinking session.

As the representative of one of the four home associations, Smith also helped pass the legislation which allows otherwise ineligible players to represent Scotland if they have spent five years of their education here. He was happy to talk about Hearts winger Andrew Driver as one of the potential beneficiaries of the new law, and shouldered some of the blame when it was learned that the Englishman had not in fact been in school north of the Border for long enough.

Scottish Premier League chief executive Neil Doncaster was among the first to express his surprise at Smith's departure. "I've heard the news a few minutes ago and I am absolutely flabbergasted. I didn't see that coming at all," he said.

"I would like to wish Gordon well for the future. Since I arrived last summer, I have really tried to build relationships between the SFA, the SFL and ourselves. That will continue going forward."

Former Scotland manager Craig Brown – now in charge at Motherwell – said last night that he was shocked by the news of Smith's departure and that he had been an "inspired appointment".

"I'm astonished actually because I thought Gordon was settling in well," Brown told BBC Scotland.

"It's a difficult job and I was 16 years working for the SFA and working under three different chief executives.

"They all had their qualities but I thought Gordon was an inspired appointment and I still think that, given time, he would've got things going."

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Asked whether he thought Smith's reign had been a success, Brown added: "It's very difficult. The wheels turn very slowly at the Scottish Football Association because of the committee striker and it must be frustrating for a guy who's full of initiative."


• 1 June 2007

SFA names Gordon Smith, the former Rangers striker, players' agent and media pundit, as its new chief executive. Smith replaces David Taylor, who left to take up the post of general secretary with Uefa.

• 17 November 2007

Alex McLeish's Scotland side tumble out of the Euro 2008 qualifying after losing 2-1 to Italy at Hampden.

• 25 November 2007

Despite rumours that he is ready to quit for Birmingham City, McLeish accompanies Smith to South Africa for 2010 World Cup qualifying draw which pits Scotland in Group 9 against Netherlands, Macedonia, Norway and Iceland.

• 27 November 2007

McLeish quits as Scotland manager.

• 28 November 2007

McLeish unveiled as new Birmingham manager.

• 14 December 2007

Fixture negotiations held with other Group 9 sides in Amsterdam. A bullish Smith declares himself satisfied.

• January 2008

SFA draws up four-man shortlist to replace McLeish: George Burley, Mark McGhee, Graeme Souness and Tommy Burns.

• 25 January 2008

Burley unveiled as new Scotland manager on four-and-a-half year contract, but Smith becomes embroiled in spat with the media at press conference over interview and recruitment process.

• 6 September 2008

Scotland begin World Cup qualifying campaign with 1-0 defeat in 90-degree heat away to Macedonia.

• September 2008

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Documentary From Player to Power shown on BBC following Smith's first year in role behind the scenes.

• 28/29 March 2009

After losing World Cup qualifier 3-0 in Netherlands, it emerges that on return to Scotland several players stayed up drinking at team hotel in affair later to be labelled 'Boozegate'

• 1 April 2009

Captain Barry Ferguson and keeper Allan McGregor dropped from Scotland starting XI against Iceland for their role in Boozegate but compound guilt with V-signs at photographers from Hampden bench. Pair given 'life bans' from SFA.

• 9 September 2009

1-0 defeat at home to Dutch ends hope of qualifying for World Cup.

• 16 November 2009

Burley sacked as Scotland manager after 3-0 thrashing by Wales in Cardiff – his sixth friendly without a victory.

• 23 December 2009

Craig Levein named as Scotland manager. New man promises that players who were frozen out under Burley – including Ferguson and McGregor – would be considered for selection.

• 19 April 2010

At around 5.45pm it is announced that Smith has resigned from his post, with a "further statement" promised by the SFA today.