Another defeat (at least it was glorious this time), another finals slipping beyond our grasp, another manager’s reputation in tatters. And no doubt, another bout of soul searching at the end of it all, coupled with demands that “something must be done”.
The joys of supporting Scotland’s national football team.
Former First Minister, Henry McLeish, reckons he’s the man with the plan to rescue Scottish football from the doldrums. He hopes to publish part two of his three part serial – the suspense! – later this autumn. Part one focused on “what must be done” to change our fortunes. And it involves a cool £500 million investment in youth football over 10 years and the establishment of 20 regional football academies.
But what of all the money that has gone before? The way myriad blazer wearers and pundits see it, Scottish football has been positively starved of funding over the last decade. And investment is needed if we are to repair the state of the national game.
Eh, no. Scottish football has had more than its fair share of taxpayers’ (and more particularly, lottery players’) money since 1995. But trying to work out exactly how much requires the detective skills of Taggart. Here’s what the burd uncovered:
- in 2000, £10 million from sportscotland to establish football academies
- in 2001, £6 million start up funding for the launch of the Scottish Football Partnership
- from 1995 – 2001, £37 million from sportscotland for everything “from the grassroots to elite”
- in 2004, £16 million to support the creation of 5 full size indoor pitches as part of the National and Regional Facilities Programme
- in 2008, £4.1 million from Cashback for Communities to support youth football initiatives, such as midnight leagues and street football
- date unknown, but currently £6 million from BIG lottery fund in Scotland to support the SFA’s Youth Action Plan
- since 2007, at least £600,000 in Awards for All grants to community based football clubs
In anyone’s book, that’s an awful lot of money (I tallied it up as something close to £80 million). And there is more that I could not pin down, made available, for example, through other lottery funding streams, or through sportscotland’s Sport Facilities Fund. Moreover, football, especially women’s football – hurrah! – attracts funding through the Talented Athlete Programme and will benefit from a new £1 million initiative by the Scottish Higher and Further Education funding council to support elite athletes at university. There has also been significant match funding by local authorities and commercial sponsors, both at national and local level, for facilities and coaching.
So if we’ve spent £80 million + in the last 15 years, how come we are so woeful? Why have we a dearth of talented young footballers? Why is McLeish calling for £50 million a year to be invested? Hmmm. What if some of it hasn’t actually been spent?
- of the £10 million to set up football academies, the SFA claims only three were set up – Rangers, Hearts and the Highland Academy – before the fund was withdrawn in 2004; yet, the Scottish Executive media release announcing the establishment of the Highland academy in 2002, claims one was also set up at Kilmarnock
- so how much of the £10 million was spent and what happened to the rest?
- of the £6 million announced to launch the Scottish Football Partnership, the SFA in a submission to the Scottish Parliament suggests only £2.5 million was made available over 10 years to fund its youth action plan
- but a Scottish Executive media release from 2004 suggests the original funding package was to be £31.1 million, with £12.2 million coming directly from government
- and a SYFA (youth football association) submission suggests that professional football clubs would be awarded £9.9 million over the lifetime of the youth action plan
- how does the youth action plan differ from the Cashback for Communities’ youth football initiatives, which appears to have attracted an entirely separate pot of money?
- does anyone know how much is actually being spent on youth football?
- what else has the Scottish Football Partnership spent its money on?
- were the five full size indoor pitches ever built? if not, what happened to the £16 million funding, which arose from the failed Euro2008 bid?
- if sportscotland spent £37 million between 1995 and 2001, how much more has it spent on grants since then and what has the money been spent on?
Confused? Yep, me too. It’s an awful tangled web of spin and spending. And bugger all to show for it, except the usual string of glorious defeats, the occasional memorable result, an ever diminishing UEFA co-efficient and embarassing FIFA ranking.
Before we start throwing new money at the problem, it would be helpful if Mr McLeish could devote part three of his review to untangling this web, working out where all this money has gone and then decide “what must be done”.