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Scottish FA host inaugural Convention

SFA Convention

On Wednesday December 3rd, the Scottish Football Association held their inaugural Convention at Hampden Park. The event – attended by a wide range of stakeholders both within and outwith Scottish football – examined some of the pertinent issues facing the game in this country today. There were several interesting speakers on the day, discussing topics such as the brand and marketing of Scottish football, social media, the SFA’s Judicial Process and the renaissance of German football.

After a brief welcome from SFA Chief Executive, Stewart Regan, the morning session was opened by Joe McLean and James Hichens from Grant Thornton LLP, who discussed Scottish football’s future from an external point of view – looking at issues such as falling attendances and the need to increase the level of fan engagement as a means of improving the ‘customer experience’. It was especially interesting to listen to opinions on how to improve Scottish football from an external standpoint – adopting a non-traditional approach may be the way forward for the game in this country.

Following this was a presentation from Craig Graham, the Chairman of Spartans FC, discussing the work done by the club’s Community arm. This was a very uplifting story on the work done in this area of Edinburgh – giving local children a chance to not only play football, but spend time with their friends in a safe environment. Outside of the football, the club uses it’s community work to focus on issues such as health, education and crime.

Before the lunch break in the afternoon, the audience were treated to a hour-long speech from Barry Hearn, the Chairman of Matchroom Sport – who established a strong portfolio of promoting in snooker, darts and boxing. The former Leyton Orient Chairman didn’t pull any punches, outlining what he thought the problems facing Scottish football were and criticising the SFA and SPFL for not doing enough to promote the sport and indulging in too much self-pity. Hearn also advocated the centralisation of Scottish football, bringing the SPFL and SFA together, rather than working separately towards their mutual goals.

After a brief lunch break, the afternoon session began with a very informative speech from the General Secretary of the DFB, Helmut Sandrock, discussing the renaissance of German football, culminating in their successful 2014 World Cup campaign. Helmut began by looking back at Germany’s poor results in the late 90s and early 00s and the decision made to invest in youth development – acknowledging that it would be a long-term approach, rather than a quick-fix. Perhaps most interesting in this was Helmut detailing the importance of family life in developing a player and that the DFB ensures that players remain living at home until they are at least 15. It could be argued that Scottish football is only at the beginning of this journey, so being able to see a nation that has followed through on a commitment to change provided a great deal of inspiration.

Lawrence Broadie of Progress Sponsorship and Communications then gave an impassioned speech on the work that needs to be done within football from a public relations viewpoint. Encouraging clubs to be more creative and open to new ways of working. This was finished off with an positive plea for those in Scottish football to show more enthusiasm for the game in terms of its promotion; that there is a lot of good within Scottish football and it is our responsibility to let as many people as possible know about that.

Following Lawrence was Alex Stone, who is the Social Media Manager for FIFA. Alex’s speech focused primarily on the highly successful social media strategy that FIFA employed during the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and the staggering statistic that they were able to reach over 1 billion football fans during this period. It was also refreshing to know that the issues that plague any social media user can also afflict FIFA at times – including during the build-up to the World Cup Final!

The penultimate session featured Andrew McKinlay and Tony McGlennan of the SFA, who gave an insight into the SFA’s Judicial Panel. Tony took the audience through the process of a fast track appeal – what was included in this period, the timescale and the interaction between the SFA, match day officials and players and coaches themselves during the process.

The convention was rounded off with a Q&A with Scotland National Team coach, Gordon Strachan. Charming and entertaining as ever, the best bits were covered by us in the tweets below…

In his opening address, SFA Chief Executive Stewart Regan confirmed that – amongst others – Supporters Direct Scotland would be in included in discussions regarding the restructuring of the Scottish Football Association. SDS welcomes these developments and looks forward to being involved in helping to make Scottish football a more successful and sustainable sport for all concerned.

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