|Stewart Regan- CEO, Scottish Football Association|
|Profile of the week|
Friday, 07 December 2012 15:12
As Chief Executive of one of the most famous cricket clubs in the world, Stewart completely restructured the business to ensure greater commercial focus and put in place a new cricket structure to improve the club’s‘product’.
Previously, Stewart was Director of The Football League Championship, where he led the rebranding and rejuvenation of the second tier of English football. Since the creation of The Championship, attendances have reached their highest figures for over 50 years.
Before utilising his business acumen in the sporting world, Stewart spent 16 years in the brewing industry, most notably as Strategic Planning Director for Bass Brewers.
In his first year at the Scottish FA Stewart has overseen a period of significant change. Building on the recommendations in former First Minister Henry McLeish’s Review of Scottish Football, Stewart has introduced a new strategic plan, Scotland United - A 2020 Vision, heralding a focus on performance both on and off the pitch.
By Douglas Elder
I’ve been involved in sport for coming up to ten years on the professional side. I first moved into football when I moved into the Football League Championship and at the time, the Football League were looking for somebody with a commercial background who could actually help close the gap between the Premier League in England and the second-tier, which was then the old First Division. So I was able to bring that commercial experience and knowledge of a branded business operation and strategic thinking, as my last job in the brewing industry was as a Strategic Planning Director.
I then moved from the Football League into cricket, and then laterally into the Scottish F.A and I think my understanding of the corporate world has helped me operate on a number of fronts and I would say the key areas are strategy and strategic planning, the ability to communicate at all levels of the game, the understanding of working with brands and consumers and at the end of the day, football has a number of brands and obviously a number of consumers in the form of supporters. So I think the skills learned in the business world are very portable and because football and cricket is a multi-million pound turnover business and industry, it needs somebody with a good business insight in order to take those areas forward.
You talked about closing the gap between the Premier League and Championship, has that happened and how is the gap from the English to Scottish Premier League?
I think the substantial value of the television market has widened rather than narrowed and the English Premier League is obviously viewed as the richest league in the world and some of the numbers that have been associated with the television deals have meant that clubs are earning many millions more than they have previously.
As far as Scotland is concerned, Scotland is well below England in terms of television revenue, and is very much the poor relation. Clubs In Scotland have got a huge task trying to compete, particularly when it comes to European matches with teams that are getting ten and twenty times, and some cases more, than they do in Scotland. So it is a challenge, but it’s a challenge for many countries around the world and something that football has to deal with.
Michel Platini appears keen on hosting Euro 2020 across many cities, how does that affect the joint bid from Scotland, Wales and the Republic of Ireland?
Well, the joint bid was something was something we contemplated early this year when the opportunity arose to put our hat in the ring and at this stage we have simply expressed an interest in finding out more about the opportunity and we shared that with Wales and the Republic of Ireland, and we believe that together we could satisfy the minimum criteria, such as the number of stadium required to host Euro 2020, the experience in hosting major tournaments which we all have done in recent done years, and also the infrastructure in particular – hotels, train, road and air networks – we felt we were well placed to service the needs UEFA and we could offer small distances for fans to travel between matches, while still having the feeling of visiting different cities and different countries.
Since then, Michel Platini has indicated an idea, which would be a one-off for 2020 given that it’s the 60th anniversary of the European Championships to introduce the concept of thirteen host cities across Europe, each staging around four matches with one city being the chance to stage the semi-final and final. We felt that Scotland would be well placed on either front. Glasgow as a city - given that it’s one of one of a small number of cities in the world that has got three 50,000 seater stadiums UEFA and FIFA recognised stadiums in the city - would be well placed. So we’ve said, in either scenario, Scotland would be willing to put itself forward and at the moment we’re waiting for more details.
What would be more beneficial to Scottish football? Would a thirteen city format or the original joint bid with Wales and Ireland be better?
I think either would work, there are merits in both. From a cross-country option i.e. a normal bidding process, there are no reasons why a multi-country bid couldn’t work and Wales, the Republic of Ireland and Scotland have all got the cities and stadiums and infrastructure to make that work. Equally, if Glasgow was one of thirteen cities hosting the Championships as a special one-off, then you can see why that would have its attractions as well. As a one-off opportunity for UEFA to showcase leading cities and leading stadiums around Europe, I can see why that would be attractive, so I think it will come down to the views of the wider 53 associations across the confederations as I said, we’d be ready to bid on either front.
The Scotland national team are struggling a little at the moment, is that due to a lack of resources or the start of a longer term plan?
In 2010, there was a fairly in-depth piece of work carried out by the former First Minister of Scotland, Henry McLeish and he recommended a number of areas of focus.
Now, when you put a new strategy in place, it doesn’t happen overnight, you have to start with children, and those children have to grow up, and they become the next generation of players, so we know we’re playing a longer game here.
You’ve got to balance the long-term aspiration with the short-term demands of the Scotland fans. As you well know, the passion of the Scotland fans and the desire for success is relentless and we do need to keep working on the short-term strategy as well. We’ve brought in more players who are playing at the highest level in football than ever before, so we’ve definitely got more talent at our disposal than we have had before, now we just have to get the right coach to help transform the fortunes on the pitch and deliver the results.