Festival of Politics – Scotland’s Political Football

Football fans, politicians, and sports media examined the politics of Scotland’s national game and discussed what needs to be done to improve the fortunes of our national team.

The two-hour event on 17 August featured a panel of football pundits and politicians, and an audience of football fans who packed into the main chamber of the Scottish Parliament.

The panel

  • Stuart McMillan MSP West of Scotland / Scottish National Party
  • John Park MSP Mid Scotland and Fife / Labour
  • Mark McGhee Manager/ Aberdeen FC
  • Jim Jeffries Manager/ Heart of Midlothian FC
  • Neil Doncaster CEO/ Scottish Premier League
  • Alan Rough Radio Presenter/ Real Radio
  • Presented by Ewen Cameron

The Topics (chosen by the audience)

Football after the Henry McLeish Report

  • The former First Minister and professional footballer Henry McLeish had been commissioned by the Scottish Football Association to review the status of Scottish Football.
  • The McLeish Report recommended a focus on the grass roots and government investment of £500 million.
  • Mark McGhee reminded us that the broadcasters fee money in Scottish Football was reducing and that players now had to be “sourced from a lower level than before”.
  • Questioner `Richard` said that the McLeish Report recommendations were too late in light of the financial crisis.
  • John Park claimed that Charlton FC in London had a good set-up that we should copy in Scotland.
  • Everyone agreed that more money and training for grass-roots football was the promised land and that motherhood and apple pie was also a great idea. (I made that up)

Changes to the SPL structure

  • Neil Doncaster was questioned about the likely agenda for the December conference of the SPL. He agreed that expanding the number of teams in the SPL, and broadcasters’ fees, would both feature, but he insisted that an expanded 16 team structure would cost teams money.
  • Doncaster avoided facing the suggestion that an SPL of 18 teams might work instead.

It’s two ends of a sphere

  • The panel disagreed on “The Split” at the end of each season; with Mark McGhee claiming it was supported by teams at the top and bottom of the league: “it’s two ends of a sphere”, but most in the audience called for it to end.
  • Neil Doncaster’s views began to be a target for many of the audience but he insisted that the SPL was held in high regard abroad even though many in the chamber voiced their dissent.

The Review

  • The panel members summed-up with optimistic waffle about the future of Scottish Football and Alan Rough announced that his chosen subject was the “Life and Times of Dylan Thomas”. He appeared to have drifted-off to sleep and come-round in a Mastermind studio. However the fans then drifted-off aimlessly towards the exits apparently satisfied with the encounter.
  • The event was a live broadcast on a commercial radio station and little regard had been considered by the producers to modify the structure of the show. All too frequent breaks for advertising and news ensured that no real banter developed.
  • The Bovril and pies in the Garden Lobby afterwards was a welcome innovation in an institution more used to champagne and canapes.

The event was in Association with Real Radio Football Phone-in

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