Scottish FA prepares for crunch reform vote on Tuesday

Former First Minister Henry McLeish presents his review of Scottish football
Clubs will vote on Henry McLeish's wide-ranging proposals on Tuesday

The Scottish Football Association will present its case for change to members on Tuesday in what Henry McLeish calls a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity".

The SFA's chief executive Stewart Regan needs 70 votes from its 93 members at the Hampden annual general meeting to modernise the way the game is governed.

The proposals stem from McLeish's Scottish football review, commissioned by the SFA president, George Peat.

They include improving structures and changing disciplinary procedures.

Former First Minister Henry McLeish told BBC Radio 5Live: "Whether you are the chairman of a club or the youngest player, we owe it to Scottish football and fans to carry out our game in a way that we can all be proud of.

"I feel that is not old-fashioned; the modern game has to be disciplined and that was lacking in much of what we have seen."

McLeish was making reference to the season just ended, a particularly acrimonious period in Scottish football in which there were rows between Celtic and the SFA, the resignation of refereeing officials, a strike by referees, touchline spats, a Scottish Government summit to combat sectarianism, and parcel bombs sent to Celtic manager Neil Lennon and other high-profile fans of the club.

"Changes to structures don't solve all the problems but let's hope that it gives a new direction, a new sense of purpose and a belief in the game that we can trust each other," continued McLeish, himself a former professional footballer.

"This is opening up a new era in Scottish football. It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for those who are involved in the game. This will not happen again if the reforms don't go forward."

The challenge for McLeish and Regan is to convince those with vested interests in the bloated committee system that change is for the overall good of the game.

The vote will determine how successful they have been in convincing the members - lampooned as "blazers" in the press and the terraces - that their loss of status is not detrimental to their clubs.

Regan told the BBC: "We have spent the last three months explaining to members the background to the reforms, the benefits to all the members and trying to paint a picture of how things will be in the future for Scottish football if the members support the reforms.

"We just hope the members will back us and give us the chance to build better governance procedures."

And McLeish added: "These hard-headed changes are designed to give Scotland what it wants, and Scottish fans have been long-suffering.

"I see my role as being instrumental in helping get the structures and the governance of the game sorted out and then we can look towards a better product on the pitch."

Central to Regan's pitch to the clubs has been the overhaul of the main board, reducing it from 11 directors to seven, and the establishment of professional and non-professional game boards to replace existing structures.

Stewart Regan and George Peat
Stewart Regan and George Peat face a crucial vote on Tuesday

The professional game board will include Scottish Premier League, Scottish Football League and Highland League representatives.

"The main board will be much more strategic and financial and focused on decisions affecting the entire game," he said.

"Sitting below the main board we will split the game in two. We will have an operational board - all matters relating to professional football and a mirror image for the non-professional game.

"Both of those boards will have representatives from across the entire game in Scotland, both professional and non-professional."

And Regan added: "We have got to change, get more robust as an organisation and that is what Tuesday is all about."

The departing Celtic chairman Lord Reid was an outspoken critic of the SFA's disciplinary procedures last season and the club has welcomed the body's proposal to modernise and simplify the system.

"We will be reviewing the old-fashioned committee structure," said Regan.

"Currently we have a number of committees which make decisions on disciplinary matters and they will be scrapped and replaced with a judicial panel and a compliance officer who will present cases to the panel on behalf of the SFA.

"But we are not seeking to change the game of football. With the game comes emotion and sometimes managers, players and coaches will step out of line.

"What we need at the governing body is to have a set of procedures that can deal with those matters quickly, transparently and in a way that everybody understands."

The SFA needs 75% of the votes of members attending the meeting.

Failure to pass the changes, says the chief executive, will mean he and his executive colleagues "go back to the drawing board".

It would be a serious blow to Regan in his attempts to restore the SFA's sense of authority and dynamism.

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