It’s only business – Stewart Regan resigns as SFA Chief Executive

On the face of things and despite mass unrest, there appears to be no smoking gun, no hangman’s noose. Stewart Regan, now former SFA Chief Executive is out of a job after walking, apparently, of his own volition.

Whatever way you look at it, he has departed and many would say that the writing has been on the wall for a while. His position became to look untenable in recent weeks and months following, yet another, failure to qualify for a Major tournament as well as the very public failure to land his preferred and seemingly only target for Scotland manager.

It has not been an easy period for the man at the top of Scottish Football. Added to the above there is controversy surrounding the, again very public, decision to review the extant lease of Hampden Park. Further controversy has ensured following the announcement of far flung friendlies in the summer, with club sides and managers being very vocal in their criticism of this move.

Now, moving stadium or taking players on long haul trips (would managers have complained as much if players had been called up for long haul trips to say, Russia for a World Cup?) is bound to rub some people up the wrong way, displease clubs or individuals.

But Regan has had instances of displeasing the masses many times before also. The setting of Scotland ticket prices at a, commercially competitive, price point was a universally unpopular move. Justification can be attempted with “going rate” or “cover cost” arguments, but this was never going to appease everyone.

The examples above are a good overview of one of the main reasons for Regan’s demise. They are all very much “business” decisions. The stadium move was mooted primarily as a cost saving exercise, the exotic friendlies will undoubtedly be a source of revenue and a valuable marketing opportunity while the ticket price point is, even through justification, clearly revenue driven.

This is where things went wrong for Regan. Now, it must be stated at this point that I have never been a Chief Executive, so technically I don’t know exactly what it takes to make a success of it – many would argue it is a thankless task. But, as a fan looking in these business decisions, cold, ruthless decisions and associated issues led to more trouble than success.

Now Regan is undoubtedly a successful businessman, with a commercially successful CV part of the reason he got the job in the first place. But that is just the thing, football may well be a “business” in many ways, but in many more it is completely different.

Football, and international football at that, differs greatly from mainstream business. Making moves to save money on accommodation, enter new markets or keep prices for customers competitive are all perfectly acceptable in the every day world. This is all accepted without much argument – we have all experienced more expensive utility or internet bills as large organisations “reorganise” or “restructure” and try to remain competitive in the market to secure profits. We don’t bat an eyelid at this, and seldom call for the heads of the Chief Executive.

In this sense therefore, it could be argued that the above issues and the criticism for such are unfair, Regan is after all a businessman and was employed to oversee not just the Football but the business side of Scottish Football.

But this is not the case. Football is far different. Telecoms companies can charge what they want, can reorganise and move – customers can move, change allegiance and look for a better deal. This doesn’t work with football, we can’t just stop supporting Scotland and change allegiance to say, France, just because the cost and quality on offer is more commercially viable. There is so much more emotion involved.

The misunderstanding of this issue proved to be the major downfall. Yes, commercial success is important and part of the job description, but failing to grasp the emotional side of these moves and sticking too rigidly to business decisions led Regan down a path of no return.

Further, pure business, failings like lack of sponsorship helped to compound the problem. While there was a lot of good work done in his years in post, the negatives will be more acutely remembered forever more.

After walking away from it all however, Regan will appreciate more than most that his demise and the criticism he faced was nothing personal, it’s only business.

For More on Scottish Football and SFA related articles, please check out: The Supporter’s Dilemma; Should Scotland Look at a Woman to Lead the Men’s Game?; Tradition versus Finance, Hampden versus Moving; Scottish football – A fan’s rose tinted base case

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