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Page last updated at 10:34 GMT, Friday, 23 April 2010 11:34 UK

Major report demands changes to Scottish football

Scottish Football Review explained

Scotland's football authorities and the government have been challenged to come up with £500m to solve what a major report claims is a crisis in the game.

Former First Minister Henry McLeish has made 53 recommendations in the first part - focusing on the grassroots - of his Scottish Football Review.

A system of football academies and kids' summer football are among them.

"We have a crisis on our hands in terms of facilities and infrastructure," said the former East Fife defender.

Scotland are currently ranked 41st in the world and have failed to qualify for the last six major international competitions.

And, in a 74-page report that was commissioned by the Scottish Football Association in May, McLeish said Scottish football is "underachieving, under-performing and under-funded".

The present provision is shocking relative to our ambitions for our national game and to the provision in other countries

Henry McLeish

The 61-year-old urges the SFA, Scottish Premier League and Scottish Football League to work together more closely.

McLeish wants a minimum of 20 football academies in comprehensive schools, something he said the SFA is already committed to, and wants to see participation in football rise from 360,000 to 500,000.

The former MSP also calls for summer football to be piloted at youth level and said that the SFA is already moving to appoint a national performance director, something he said had been endorsed by Scotland coach Craig Levein.

McLeish admitted his recommendations were "ambitious", especially in the current financial climate, but he urged local and national government, Scottish football and the private sector to come together to create a "unique and powerful investment vehicle" to make them a reality.

He had been encouraged by his discussions with the Scottish government, which he believes can be convinced to invest as part of their overall strategy to improve the health and fitness of the nation.

McLeish said he consulted a broad range of football interests, including those involved at the grassroots of the game, with questionnaires sent out to all professional clubs and 32 local councils, as well as meetings with government ministers, departments and agencies.

He also visited six SPL and three SFL clubs, the Dutch FA and Sporting Lisbon - and held discussions with SFA, SFL and SPL administrators and supporters.

McLeish described Scotland as "an astonishing football-loving nation" with one of the most fervent and loyal fan bases in the world but suggested that greater effort was required to match the country's ambitions.

His report highlights "serious weaknesses in our current approach which prevent the identification and development of talent and the tapping of this potential to produce world-class footballers and elite athletes."

"There is also evidence to suggest that a great deal of world-class activity is taking place in our recreational and youth development, especially in terms of the excellent approaches to coaching," said McLeish.

"But this is not reflected in either the provision of facilities and football infrastructure, the structure and governance of the game surrounding it, or any real sense of what a talent recognition and development model really needs.

"There has been considerable progress in grassroots, recreational and youth development over the last few years.

"Despite these significant achievements, it is clear that our national efforts still fall short of what is happening in other successful countries and against our own understandable ambitions.

"We are not tapping the potential and, as a consequence, there is a talent gap between the youth development at grassroots level and the performance and quality of players coming through to national and club level.

"In modern Scotland, the present provision is shocking relative to our ambitions for our national game and to the provision in other countries.

"In addition to the serious lack of overall provision and state-of-the-art facilities throughout Scotland, we have problems of availability, cost of use, poor quality, the chronic lack of access to school facilities outwith school hours and holidays and a crisis in relation to the lack of indoor facilities.

"Some progress has been made with new facilities in Glasgow, Aberdeen, Dundee and Ravenscraig, but this is not enough."

MY SPORT: DEBATE

McLeish calls for SFA, SPL and SFL administrators to embrace change and a closer relationship with government but dismissed fears that his review would have no more impact than the SFA think tank that included Dutch coaching legend Rinus Michels back in 1995, saying there was a mood for change.

He did say that, at present, there seemed "little sense of urgency" in the systems for spotting talent and that much of present government support was designed to encourage social activity rather than helping mainstream football.

When it came to football in schools and communities, "comparisons with other countries leave us with a mountain to climb".

The report was published only days after the surprise resignation of Gordon Smith as chief executive of the SFA citing family problems as one of his reasons.

President George Peat has assumed Smith's responsibilities until a replacement is found and he welcomed McLeish's report.

"I would like to thank Henry McLeish for dedicating his time to publishing part one of his Review of Scottish Football," said Peat.

"The Scottish FA realises the importance of improving the overall football landscape in this country.

"With Henry's guidance, we will help drive the implementation of key recommendations outlined to enhance the standard of our national game."

The second and third parts of McLeish's review, which include his look at the professional game, will be published at a later date.



see also
Lennon critical of academies plan
23 Apr 10 |  Scotland
Scots Government welcomes report
23 Apr 10 |  Scotland
Scots football fans seek change
22 Apr 10 |  Scottish Premier
Smith explains SFA exit decision
20 Apr 10 |  Scotland
Smith stepping down from SFA role
19 Apr 10 |  Scotland
Scots fans asked to assist review
13 May 09 |  Scotland
McLeish 'faces Scots revamp test'
26 Feb 09 |  Football
McLeish to chair football review
25 Feb 09 |  Football


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