Supporting The Supporters Direct Scotland Conference 2015


On Saturday I headed out to a conference. Now usually I can’t stand conferences especially when they are full of speeches and seminars but then again I haven’t been to many conferences at Hampden Park (the home of Scottish football) and the topic is rarely based on making football better for the supporters.

But thankfully the Supporters Direct Scotland Conference was highly enjoyable and productive.

Many of it’s critics have taken to social media sites such as twitter to voice opposition to a conference that they had missed. They would make general comments based on 140 character tweets that they had noticed pertaining to the Hampden event. Unfortunately that meant that they fell into the trap of talking about all the sensational stuff without realising the context of these same comments.

Yes we had some radical ideas raised but that was the nature of the event… To create discussion and debate.

Supporters Direct Scotland head Andrew Jenkin did a fine job welcoming us all and bringing a great calibre of speaker.

First off we had MSP Kenny MacAskill, who is also chairman of Hibernian Supporters Ltd (HSL). Kenny would discuss the plan for HSL to gain 51% of Hibs due to a share issue for the clubs fans and the importance supporters had within the game. His talk was highly polished, as you’d expect from an experienced politician. During the Q&A section a heated exchange occurred when Kenny was challenged, he would go slightly over the top with his defence of Hibs owner Tom Farmer. He was certainly happy to give his views, and you cannot say that about every MP or MSP.

Up next was SFA’s Head of Communications Darryl Broadfoot who gave an enthused speech about improving Scottish Football. He made some relevant points about our press and fans focusing too much on the negatives rather than our games positives. Darryl also said that we should stop comparing the Scottish game with the English Premier League, something I’ve been stating for years. During the Q&A his chat about introducing drafts for youth players and having winners in every game (through penalties) was a bit off the wall but that is surely the point of these conferences, bring something different to the table.

It was nice to see former SFL supremo David Longmuir back talking about football. I think he is a big miss in the SPFL boardroom. He was at Hampden to discuss his new project Sports Cashback and how Scottish football is a community business. To sum up Sports Cashback, it’s basically a way that fans can help out their clubs by spending money online through their site using big retailers. In return the retailers will then offer cash back to the customers choice of club and project. It’s a new way of helping out your team. David also said that he supported an idea to use the Challenge Cup as a pilot scheme for summer football (what summer?).

After lunch, we were entertain by author Martin Calladine who suggested that we look at the NFL as a way of changing our own game for the better. I think it was mainly geared towards the EPL but fascinating none the less. Yes the ‘Rooney Rule’ was mentioned but Martin also discussed changing the managerial role and making it harder for ex-pros to just walk into top jobs. Squad salary caps were also discussed.

Out of the speakers the best was kept to last as Annan Athletic’s chairman Henry McClellend gave us a great insight on who the community help the ‘Black and Golds’ and how the club have helped the community. It was an inspiring speech and shows that deep down football can really help the local community. More clubs should take not of Annan as they do things the right way in my opinion.

I then attended two workshops in the afternoon.

Firstly I watched Dundee FC’s Colin Reid give a presentation about ‘Fan Representation on the board’. Colin is a club director who is nominated by clubs fans and in turn is answerable to the clubs fan trust. His talk was about the inner workings of his job and how the fans have helped push Dundee forward. The good and bad aspects of his role were extremely interesting and a good model for other clubs to follow.

Finally I visited the Disability Access in football workshop held by the SDSA (Scottish Disabled Supporters Association). It’s a shame that such an organisation still has battles to fight as certain clubs still don’t offer enough support and assistance to their disabled support.

During one of the breaks I had a pleasant chat with Angus Coull managing director of BALA Sport. They are a fine company that produce quality fairtrade footballs. Their website is well worth a look HERE.

Sunday Mail’s Gordon Waddell was present for the morning talks and it was good to see him take an interest in the event. I do feel that other Scottish news outlets should have made an appearance and helped spread the word. Thus meaning that the negative commentators based on tweets could have been more informed.

All in all it was an enjoyable day. I know supporters believe that organisations such as the SFA, the SPFL and even certain football clubs don’t listen to the fans or the fans trusts. In a way they are right but things are also improving. Celtic are now piloting a safe-standing initiative, Hearts have introduced the living wage for every club employee and more an more clubs are fan-run in some way or other.

That is why these sort of events are important and why we should always turn up for debates that can have a positive impact on our game!

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