Friday, April 23, 2010

The McLeish Report Part 1

Henry McLeish launched the first part of his much delayed report into Scottish football today?

Was it worth the wait?

I've not had time to consider it properly but he has at least admitted that the game is in desperate trouble. So that's a start.

Today's instalment focused on the grassroots. Here's how the BBC is reporting it:
And he urges the SFA, Scottish Premier League and Scottish Football League to work together more closely.

He calls for summer football to be piloted at youth level and for the SFA to appoint a performance director to oversee a new network of academies and the development of youth and elite players.

"I have been greatly encouraged by the strength of feeling and diversity of opinion encountered during the process of producing this report," said McLeish.

"I hope that the recommendations will strike a chord with football fans throughout the country."

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."
As I've said before his recommendations - and I'm in full agreement that the long term footballing future of Scotland begins with a new vitality at youth level - cost money. Lots of money. Money that nobody seems to have.

He's made 53 recommendations. I presume he expects action on them all.

I'm not convinced. Here's George 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."
Is that all 53 key points? Or the few that For Peat's Sake and his SFA chums want to implement. The cheapest, the least uncomfortable, the ones that present the least threat to the SFA's luxurious status quo?

Might I borrow a phrase from Tom Nairn?

Scottish football will be free when the last SFA committee man is strangled by the last copy of the McLeish Report.

- This is all a but rushed I'm afraid. I predict I'll be returning to the subject soon though.