By Nick Harris
23 April 2010
Nine out of 10 football fans in Scotland want structural change in the game north of the border, with 96 per cent unhappy that teams play four league matches every season against every other team in their division, according to a survey published today.
The poll was undertaken by the Scottish arm of Supporters Direct (SD), the collective voice of supporters’ trusts, and sought the views of 1,300 fans on a range of issues. The findings are a damning indictment of a repetitive, boring, low-quality and divided game in Scotland.
The report’s publication coincides with the first part of a – wholly separate – major review of the Scottish game conducted by Henry McLeish, the former First Minister.
James Proctor, the development manager of SD in Scotland, says the SD findings represent the “biggest thumbs down to the product the fans are currently seeing.”
The survey’s key findings are:
- 96 per cent of fans disagree with a system of playing opponents four times per season, and 83 per cent would prefer two games per season against each opponent
- 91 per cent of fans want one administrative body for professional football instead of the current three: the SFA, the SPL and the SFL
- 90 per cent want the league structure changed
- when asked to cite three improvements that could be made, the top three choices were lower prices, better football and modern standing areas
- 67 per cent of fans want play-offs for promotion and relegation
- 83 per cent want a formal licensing system for clubs with sanctions for failing to meet the required standards
Proctor 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.”
The first part of McLeish’s review is published today and can be downloaded. McLeish’s study was commissioned in May 2009 and its headline finding is that Scottish football needs – he suggests – £500m of funding over the next decade in facilities for youth and for development of talent.
The Daily Record was leaked the report early and summarizes its conclusions in a back-page lead this morning that says: “It contains a stark warning for our game – change or die.”
The Record has a longer look at the report in a piece linked here.
The Record’s bullet-point summary includes:
- In modern Scotland, the lack of facilities is pathetically inadequate
- Scotland lags behind the rest of Europe in the development of domestic talent
- Government investment is too small and there is an undeniable lack of transparency
- Skill level of Scottish player is well below that of other comparable countries and leagues. Young Scots don’t spend enough time with the ball
- Winter break/summer football should be tested in the youth game
- SFA, SPL and SFL must forge a total partnership
- Scotland needs a National Academy of Football based on the French model
As sportingintelligence reported earlier this month when we published our Review of Global Sports Salaries, Scotland’s top division, the SPL, has the least fair wage distribution of any of the sports leagues we considered, with a ratio between the best-paid team and the worst-paid team a whopping 31.4 to 1 in the season under consideration. In America’s NFL, that ratio is 1.86 to 1.