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Friday, October 1, 1999 Published at 11:28 GMT 12:28 UK

UK: Scotland

Gorrie battles on for soccer minnows

Mr Gorrie says Hamilton Accies fans led the way

A leading Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP has promised to continue to his battle to improve the plight of Scotland's soccer minnows.

Donald Gorrie MSP lodged a motion in the Scottish Parliament following his party's embarrassing defeat in the Hamilton South by-election to the Hamilton Academicals supporters' group.

Mr Gorrie said before he lodged the proposal that increased Government support was required to help sustain many of Scotland's football clubs.

[ image: Donald Gorrie: Backing the minnows]
Donald Gorrie: Backing the minnows
Following a debate on the issue on Tuesday, Mr Gorrie has vowed to keep up the pressure on the government until it addresses the issue.

He believes that Minister for Sport Rhona Brankin has begun to take notice of the situation but has yet to take the appropriate steps to improve it.

Mr Gorrie told BBC Scotland's Newsweek programme: "In the by-election, the Hamilton Accies' group harnessed the widespread rage in the community about the way the club has been stolen from them.

"It is a flaw in our society that, if a fan nicked £1,000 from the gate money, he would go to jail, whereas the owners of Hamilton Accies sell its ground for millions, on the promise of creating a new stadium, and years later have built nothing and enjoy their ill-gotten millions.

"Hamilton is just the most striking example of the problems facing most Scottish professional football clubs."

Mr Gorrie added that Scottish football was on a downward slope, citing the national team's struggles against the Faroes and Estonia and the lack of Scots playing for Rangers and Celtic as proof.

'Ground problems'

"Apart from Rangers and Celtic, almost all Scottish clubs are facing or have recently faced major financial or ground problems," he said.

"The Bosman ruling removed the ability of smaller clubs to revive their finances by selling a promising player. The allocation of money from TV rights has become less helpful to smaller clubs.

"They are under pressure to modernise their grounds and stands, but the money available from the Football Trust has dwindled from £40m to £6m, because of the impact of the lottery on the pools.

"The clubs cannot survive without large private investors. Some of these are genuine community-minded enthusiasts who greatly benefit their club and community. Others are asset-strippers."

[ image: Mr Gorrie wants light shed on the plight of clubs]
Mr Gorrie wants light shed on the plight of clubs
Mr Gorrie admitted the Scottish Executive and parliament could not directly interfere in the running of "legitimate commercial companies", but said they could help and influence them and their local communities.

"We should particularly help clubs to develop their youth programmes. Rating relief on their stadium could be given to clubs which demonstrate a vigorous youth policy of encouraging young players and spectators.

"The clubs and their players could be brought in more to existing and planned youth development schemes in schools."

He insisted the executive should take money from existing budgets and put it into youth work and sport.

"We could develop a fine network of football teams for all ages sustained by a feeding into the local professional team and copy this in other sports. Let's stop moaning and start a revival in Scottish football."

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29 Sep 99†|†Scotland
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