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Interview: SFA chief exec Stewart Regan talks TV rights, nations league and performance goals

Thu 22nd May 2014 | Football Governance

He’s one of the busiest men in football with the tough task of breathing new life into the Scottish game. We managed to catch up with Scottish FA Chief Executive, Stewart Regan on his way back from the UEFA Congress in Kazakhstan for a quick fire Q&A.

FCB: Nations League – You were at the vote for this, what are your personal thoughts on it and how do you see it benefitting Scottish  Football?

Sr: Initially we had some reservations as the initial discussion paper meant  a loss of control over our friendly  fixtures. this could have meant playing lower level opposition in front  of smaller crowds with a resultant downturn in commercial income.

However, the proposition is now more innovative, with the introduction of promotion and relegation places. this makes the matches more meaningful, offering greater financial potential and from a sporting perspective, adding the ‘wild card’ opportunity for four play-off winners to join 20 countries who have already qualified in the Euro Finals from 2018 onwards offers real value.

A similar model will operate for the World Cup qualifying campaign too. Clearly there will be fewer places available for qualification but Scottish football will benefit from greater financial distribution and more chances of qualifying for the finals of a major tournament.

FCB: Euro 2020 – With plans to host games across Europe to celebrate 60 years of the competition, what do you think of Scotland’s chances to host games and what benefits would there be to this?

Sr: Firstly, we are optimistic of our chances, I am delighted with how our bid document is progressing and with our history, heritage and experience of hosting major events I believe we have an excellent chance. Some of the most iconic moments in world football history have happened at Hampden Park. Undoubtedly there will be substantial positive economic impact for Scotland if we were to win this bid as we can showcase the country to hundreds of thousands of visitors as well as millions of television viewers across the world.

Scotland has so much to offer UEFA. Most important, however, is our history as one of the oldest Fas in the world with an excellent track record in working with our partners to deliver major sporting events.

FCB: UEFA Centralisation of Media Rights - From this year, UEFA have centralised the sale of media rights for the European qualifiers of the World Cup and the European Championships. How has this affected the Scottish FA and the money you receive?

Sr: We have protected our income from international television rights for the period 2014-2018 which is our single biggest source of revenue. the guarantee provided as part of our negotiated position with UEFa will provide greater financial certainty for the Scottish Fa and its members and allow us to plan our strategy safe in the knowledge that the programmes we wish to implement are sustainable.

FCB: TV rights – you recently announced a new four-season broadcasting deal with Sky Sports, how has this helped financially and with the Scottish FA’s plan to make Scottish football more attractive to a wider audience?

Sr: our domestic television rights are our second largest income area and the finalisation of a four-year deal with Sky Sports to broadcast the William Hill Scottish Cup, national youth teams and women’s international matches is a very positive piece of news for the organisation. The deal allows us to showcase our major cup competition to the Scottish footballing public and deliver on the commitments made to our sponsors. Clearly the financial rewards are substantial too and will provide greater security for our member clubs and league bodies.

FCB: Scottish Football – Scottish football has gone through a huge period of change and readjustment, how has this process gone so far and what progress has been made?

SR: The creation of a single league body and the adoption of the other four principles of reconstruction – fairer financial distribution, introduction of play-offs, parachute payments and a pyramid below the third division – will all help take the game forward.

Improvement is an ongoing process and the Scottish FA is committed to working together to promote, foster and develop the national game in this country at all levels.

FCB: Performance Strategy – This was a key area of the modernisation of the Scottish FA. How successful has it been so far and what are the ultimate aims?

SR: The creation of seven Regional Performance Schools has been an essential part of our strategy. We now have more than 200 pupils in S1 and S2, with each young player receiving an additional eight hours of football practice per week. The schools are operated in conjunction with our clubs and we have been delighted by the early signs. Each player’s development is monitored using our Performance Information Management System.

It is our objective that the initial four-year project will result in a steady stream of boys and girls moving into our national youth teams and, ultimately, it would be great to have representation from the performance schools in a Scotland national team bound for the World Cup in Qatar in 2022.

FCB: National Team – The last major tournament Scotland qualified for was the World Cup in France 1998. Has this been a wake-up call for you and what plans are in place to ensure Scotland qualifies for the Euro/World Cup in 2016/2018?

SR: The entire Performance Strategy, and indeed the McLeish Review of Scottish Football, is designed to be the antidote to that prolonged period of failure at the top level. We now have a plan in place and while there is work to be done, the early signs are encouraging. Last year, we won the Sky Sports Victory Shield for the first time outright since 1998, beating England in the final. We have also witnessed our boys’ and girls’ under-17 squads reach the UEFA Euro Championship finals.

Qualifying for finals and Elite Rounds at national youth team level gives us a platform on which to cultivate successful senior teams of the future. After a disappointing start to the FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign, a positive finish and recent upturn in results and performances gives us huge belief ahead of the start of the UEFA Euro 2016 qualifiers.

Interview taken from Issue 76 of fcbusiness Magazine.

Image: REUTERS/Michael Buholzer

Posted by: Kev Howland 

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