FOOTBALL supporters are calling for a national conversation on “sweeping changes” to the sport in Scotland.
A “fans’ manifesto” based on the views of more than 10,000 who responded to a survey by the Scottish Football Supporters’ Association (SFSA), was launched at the Scottish Parliament with the backing of Labour former First Minister Henry McLeish and Lothian Green MSP Alison Johnstone.
You can see, if fans are the lifeblood of the game, then it’s vitally important we try to create the conditions which we can grow the fanbase.Henry McLeish
The document, Transforming Scottish Football, proposes rebuilding the game with larger leagues, expanding community ownership, more diversity and participation in the governing bodies. It calls for regular, independent auditing and review of the performance of governing bodies and clubs, to prevent a Rangers-style financial meltdown.
And it also proposes competitive pricing and family facilities at every club and encourages more thinking on the connection between football and community health and well-being.
Mr McLeish, who led a 2010 review of how the game in Scotland is run, said: “This manifesto is a celebration of fans. They are the lifeblood of the game.
“That voice has got to be heard.”
He called for a “more effective” relationship between the national game and the club game, saying that fan experience could be improved.
Mr McLeish, once a professional footballer with East Fife, said: “Sometimes we can talk about these issues and think they are a bit abstract from success. But no – fans above all else want success for their own clubs and they certainly want success for the national side.
“In the 2015-16 season we are in, seven of the Premier League clubs cannot get crowds of more than 5000 despite great effort and investment.
“You can see, if fans are the lifeblood of the game, then it’s vitally important we try to create the conditions which we can grow the fanbase.”
SFSA chairman Simon Barrow said at the heart of the manifesto was the belief that change was not only necessary but also possible.
“This manifesto sets out the most sweeping agenda for regenerating Scottish football yet seen,” he said.
“We believe this document and the way it’s been produced is an important landmark in the journey towards renewing, reforming, and reclaiming our national game.
“What we are talking about is practical steps to transforming the way the game is structured, run, owned, organised, promoted and reported and financed.”
Ms Johnstone, who has championed legislation to give fans a right to buy clubs, added: “Fan involvement in clubs is absolutely essential. Without fans, you have no football.”
Neil Doncaster, SPFL chief executive, commented: “All stakeholders of Scottish football are united in striving for a positive future for our national sport. We welcome any constructive suggestions which might help shape the future of the Scottish game.”