The ongoing modernisation of the Scottish FA’s governance manifested itself in the creation of a new Congress in 2015: the national game’s first fully-representative group of stakeholders.
It was the culmination of a two-year process of evolving the traditional Scottish FA Council and making it a more functional and inclusive body to debate, discuss and make recommendations on the key issues affecting the game.
Club and affiliate representatives are now joined by recognised bodies such as PFA Scotland, Scottish Coaches’ and Managers’ Association, Scottish Senior Football Referees’ Association, Scottish Football Writers’ Association and sportscotland.
Congress meets quarterly and in its inaugural year yielded two advisory groups to provide feedback and guidance on prevalent topics. The first group met to consider the Scottish football fixture calendar, looking at the potential avenues for further league reconstruction, optimal season kick-off, winter breaks and cup competition formats.
The second, Building Better Relationships, is geared towards improving the communication between match officials, players, coaches and clubs. This group has met on several occasions and distilled the outcomes from a survey conducted across all relevant stakeholders into a series of practical improvements.
Key to this improvement is overcoming perceptions, improving understanding between groups and increasing the communication opportunities throughout the year.
In addition to the working groups, Congress has also benefited from a series of high-calibre presentations on topical debates affecting the game. For example, with the global spotlight on the FIFA Presidential elections, Congress was presented with the manifestos of each of the candidates and their collective views became part of the Scottish FA Board’s decision-making process.
David Reid, the chair of the Referee Committee and director of Stenhousemuir, was integral to the reformatting of Council and spoke passionately about the need to make congress matter in an address to the first meeting of the members.
The quarterly Congress forums culminate in the annual Scottish FA Convention, a knowledge and information sharing platform for the members, sponsors and partners of Scottish football’s governing body.
A selection of high-calibre speakers deliver a combination of presentations and workshops in an event intended to be shaped by our members for the benefit of our members.
The inaugural programme in 2014 looked at the key areas of the Scottish FA’s strategic plan, Scotland United: A 2020 Vision, with presentations from experts in the field in the areas of Performance, Strong Quality Growth, Growing Football’s Finances and Leading the Game.
Speakers included Barry Hearn, Chairman of the hugely successful Matchroom Sport, to discuss the lessons that can be learned from the global success of his boxing, darts and snooker divisions.
Year two included a factual account of Scottish football’s standing both at club level, in European competition and in the international arena, presented by UEFA’s Benchmarking Manager, Sefton Perry. His account was complemented by a look at the remarkable success of Iceland’s national football team; their assistant manager, Heimir Hallgrimsson, telling the fairytale story of the country with a population of 200,000 people becoming the first to prevail from the European Qualifiers to UEFA Euro 2016.
The growing influence of women in football was also a key theme of the Convention and the Scottish FA managed to attract a cross-section of high-profile women at all levels of the game made for an inspirational section, led by Ann Budge, the Heart of Midlothian owner, and Justine Mitchell, the Scottish Women’s Football board and Congress member.
A series of break-out rooms also enabled more intimate and informal presentations on such areas as football’s betting and integrity regulations, the future of digital media and marketing and a case study in American sports promotion, focusing on the similarities and distinctions between American Football, through the NFL, and football in the United Kingdom.