A Question of Trust (Updated)
Saturday, January 19, 2013 1,894 Comments
by Auldheid for the Scottish Football Monitor
On these pages at least there is a mounting lack of trust that the Scottish Football Association can or will govern our game in a fair and honest manner that recognises the principle of sporting integrity as paramount.
This mistrust is equalled only by the frustration at being unable to do anything to change the attitude and action of those at the SFA (and Leagues) responsible for that governance, a frustration compounded by the reluctance of the mainstream media to focus on the very issues of trust and integrity that concern us.
Back in early 2010 Celtic supporters represented by the Celtic Trust, various Association groups and individuals felt the same frustration and found a way to make their voices heard at the SFA – by using their club as a channel of communication to articulate their concerns.
A resolution was agreed and passed to Celtic to convey to the SFA and it was heeded by the club. There is no reason in why a similar conduit cannot be used by supporters groups of all clubs.
The enormity of the task, to get the majority of trusts and associations of all clubs to support this approach and give it sufficient weight, should not be underestimated, but in the interests of amplifying our voice, it is worth the effort.
Based on that 2010 experience, and on the discussion that has taken place on TSFM we have arrived at a (now amended) resolution below under the auspices of TSFM and which has been sent to all representative club supporters groups.
We believe one of the reasons the SFA and SPL were able to mislead (or simply fail to provide leadership) was because of the lack of clarity surrounding who should take provide that leadership and what principles should have been paramount.
The SFA were as tied to the commercial impact of Rangers demise as the SPL and indeed had to be reminded by the supporters of the importance of that sporting integrity. In the aftermath of the Rangers implosion, both the SFA and Leagues on the face of it appear still too commercially oriented to act in a way that balances commercialism and sporting principles.
We have attempted to address this in the resolution below. It also contains additional points raised already on TSFM and elsewhere. It is designed to assist in the widening of accountability in the sport.
We are not wed to the draft or the language. It is there to be revised but we hope it contains enough food for thought to be acceptable to the supporters groups and the clubs.
As recently as today, the SFA has published a Fans Charter. We welcome this development, and although it does not address our specific concerns with respect to governance it is a step in the right direction (http://www.fanscharter.com/).
Some of the principles published are;
- Challenge is to make a National Fans Charter known, accepted and influential
- Getting fan involvement in drafting charter important to acceptance, influence and growing awareness.
We think our resolution is an even bigger step in the direction of those principles.
DRAFT Proposal for Representative Supporter Groups e.g. Trusts or Associations to send to their club to convey to the SFA/SPL/SFL Boards.
We [Insert Association/Trust name here] and in association with fans’ groups of other clubs, ask [Insert Club name here] to convey the following to the Scottish Football Association, SPL and SFL on our behalf.
1 We believe that the commercial viability of Scottish football at the professional level depends absolutely on the belief by supporters that sporting integrity is at the heart of all competition, and that those governing them and the rules by which they exercise governance, must hold sporting integrity as paramount above ALL other concerns. This belief can be summed up in the one word “trust” Without trust in those responsible for governing Scottish Football, commercial viability will suffer, to eventual ruin of our game.
2 There is a perception (accompanied by some dismay and anger) among football supporters throughout Scotland that those who were charged with upholding the rules of the SFA and SPL/SFL, only did so partially – and even then only because of the threat of supporter action if they did not.
3 There appears to be no distinction or order of hierarchy between those governing the game (the SFA) for whom we believe preservation of sporting integrity should be the prime purpose, and the leagues (SPL/SFL) for whom commercial aspects are (understandably) uppermost. As a result sporting integrity lost its primacy and it was left to supporters to insist on it.
4 Consequently many Scottish football supporters have lost confidence that the Scottish Football Association will fulfil their purpose of safeguarding the sport. Indeed their silence following the revelation of a 5 way agreement last summer on the future of the liquidated Glasgow Rangers has exacerbated this loss of confidence in the SFA’s ability to administer professional football in Scotland in a manner that reflects their duty of care to all aspects of the game and everyone who takes part in it.
5 Decisions and deals have been taken by the SFA, SPL, and SFL without any public scrutiny. The operations and decisions of those bodies lack transparency and they are not accountable in any recognisable form to the football supporters throughout the land, without whom there is no professional association.
6 In our view this loss of trust can only begin to be restored by the SFA publically committing itself to:
(i) The production of an unequivocal “mission” statement of purpose/intent which will state (in whatever form they may exist) that maintaining sporting integrity is and will always be their prime goal. The statement will also describe how they intend to ensure this principle is followed in their interactions with Leagues and Clubs, particularly when commercial decisions that might undermine sporting integrity are implemented by the Leagues. (e.g. In the case of TV contracts, sponsorship or any significant league reconstruction).
(ii) Further: in recognition of the inability of some individuals to provide leadership during the past year simply because of conflicts of interest, take steps to remove any such conflict, and in doing so enable the organisation and its office bearers to function unhindered.
(iii) In the interests of transparency, publish the “five point agreement” that allowed The Rangers entry into SFL and SFA, provide a supporting rationale for entering into the agreement, and confirm that the terms have been or are being complied with.
Along with other trust restoring measures (see attached Annex) these steps should mark the end of the continuing lack of trust in the authorities.
7. We appreciate that it may be the start of next season before there is any visible evidence of our concerns being addressed although the statement of purpose/intent by the SFA (i) and action at (ii) can be readily put in place – would be a welcome early development.
8. All club’s supporters groups will be watching closely for signs of progress before advising our members and our other supporters if we feel the necessary trust restoring steps are being taken and advise that they can purchase their season books for 2013/14 knowing that sporting integrity is once more absolutely paramount in Scottish football to the betterment of our game.
Signed __________________________ on behalf of
[Insert supporter trust/association name here]
Annex to resolution.
The following is a list of other measures that the SFA should take in order to satisfy supporters that they should be entrusted with the job of governing Scottish football.
- To increase transparency and accountability in a meaningful way – possibly via creation of an active supporter’s liaison group drawn from representative supporter groups of each club. Its remit, using an agreed consultative mechanism to generate dialogue, to hear supporters’ concerns and consider them before key decisions are made. In an industry that is totally interdependent it is folly to exclude a major stakeholder from key decision making.
- A tightening of and an annual and independent audit of the process for granting UEFA Club (FFP) and National Club licensing reporting to the representative supporter liaison group as well as other SFA members to ensure all clubs are living within their means.
- Introduction of a rule requiring all Scottish football club directors to declare any financial interest/shareholding in any club other than their own and to rule that disposition of those shares/interest should be a part of a fit and proper assessment of a person’s qualification to hold office at an association club.
- A feasibility review of Scottish refereeing to assess the potential for creating a professional service that the SFA provide to the leagues by recruiting and training referees, but where the leagues monitor and reward consistently good performances to an agreed standard. Given the sums dependent on referee decisions, the current system must change for everyone’s sake including the referees.
- A full explanation about the circumstances (including dates) surrounding the award of a UEFA Club licence to Rangers in spring/summer of 2011 when there was unpaid social tax that prime facie did not meet the conditions for deeming the granting of a licence acceptable under the UEFA FFP rules on unpaid tax (the wee tax bill).
The [Insert Club Name here] Trust/Supporters Association asks [Insert Club Name here] to convey our concerns above with their provenance to the appropriate authorities as they see fit viz:
- Football Authority in Scotland (The SFA)
- Europe (UEFA)
- Scottish Government (on the issue of accountability to supporters and proper checks and balance governance.)