Footballing Organisations (Meetings)

Question Time — Scottish Executive — General Questions – in the Scottish Parliament at 11:41 am on 14 June 2007.

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Photo of Johann Lamont Johann Lamont Labour 11:41, 14 June 2007

To ask the Scottish Executive which footballing organisations and representatives ministers have met since May 2007. (S3O-233)

Photo of Stewart Maxwell Stewart Maxwell Scottish National Party

Since May 2007, ministers have not met formally any footballing organisations or their representatives. However, since May 2007 ministers have attended three football events at the invitation of footballing organisations, which has provided them with the opportunity to meet footballing organisations and representatives on an informal basis. In addition, I met informally representatives of Spartans.

Photo of Johann Lamont Johann Lamont Labour

I attend football matches regularly, but I have never seen them as an opportunity for an informal meeting—that is perhaps a significant difference. In the minister's informal discussions—which did not involve comment on the qualities of any of the players—did any of the organisations or representatives raise with him their wish for Scotland to make a Scotland-only bid for the European football championships in 2016? Will the minister commit to resisting the temptation—which, unsurprisingly and spectacularly, the First Minister did not resist in his unthinking and half-baked observations on a Scottish Olympic team and a Scotland-only bid for the European football championships—to use sport as a proxy debate for independence? Scottish sport and sportspeople and our young people deserve better.

Photo of Stewart Maxwell Stewart Maxwell Scottish National Party

I welcome the high ambition that Johann Lamont shows for our country. The First Minister showed that this Government has great ambitions not only for our country but for our sporting bodies and sporting stars.

In our manifesto we made the clear commitment to launch a feasibility study on the possibility of Scotland bidding for the 2016 European football championships. We intend to speak to the new chief executive officer of the Scottish Football Association, Gordon Smith, but we will give him a chance to get his feet under the table as he has only just been appointed. When we speak to Gordon and the rest of the SFA, we will consider their views on taking forward a bid.

The best thing for Scotland is for us to be at the top table in every sport and every area of our life. The lack of ambition from the Labour Party is really quite astonishing.

Photo of Jamie McGrigor Jamie McGrigor Conservative

Martyn Hunter, the finance director of Elgin City Football Club, has raised the issue of increased expenditure incurred by clubs such as Elgin, which have risen from the Highland league to the national leagues. He highlighted the extra funding needed for health and safety measures for stadiums and the huge expense of travel for 125 youth players who are now attached to Elgin. Is the minister discussing such issues with smaller football clubs such as Elgin, which are expanding?

Photo of Stewart Maxwell Stewart Maxwell Scottish National Party

Over the next few weeks and, in particular, over the summer, I intend to meet as many of the smaller clubs, community-based organisations and junior clubs as I can. I appreciate the point that Jamie McGrigor makes about the increased expenditure that comes with success, but I do not think that we would want anything other than for the clubs to achieve such success. If there are particular problems with Elgin, I would welcome receiving a letter with the details, which I would consider in due course.

Photo of Cathy Jamieson Cathy Jamieson Labour

Does the minister agree that the role of Supporters Direct in Scotland and organisations such as the football trusts in clubs such as Kilmarnock Football Club and its local rival, Ayr United Football Club, is vital in taking forward work in the community? Will he give me a commitment that, when he has the opportunity to meet the various footballing organisations, he will meet Supporters Direct in Scotland and that he will look to ensure that it continues to enjoy the funding that was provided by the previous Executive?

Photo of Stewart Maxwell Stewart Maxwell Scottish National Party

All funding arrangements will be considered as part of the overall spending review, so I will make no commitment at this stage. I am more than happy to agree with the member's opinion of the good work that Supporters Direct in Scotland and the football trusts do. There is a fundamental and principled role for such organisations in the world of football, which is to ensure that ordinary supporters have their voices heard. If Supporters Direct in Scotland wishes to write to me, I am sure that I can find a slot in my diary to meet its representatives as soon as possible.

Photo of Margo MacDonald Margo MacDonald Independent

Did the minister discuss the question of the complaint of racism made by Spartans Football Club against another local player or did he discuss its footballing academy? I am just interested.

Photo of Stewart Maxwell Stewart Maxwell Scottish National Party

We did not discuss the issue of the alleged racist incident but we discussed the proposed community facilities and academy near Ferry Road in Edinburgh, which Spartans and I hope will get the go-ahead, because I certainly believe that it would be an excellent facility for the people of that area.