BY Russell Wardrop

DATE: 16 JUL 2012


There will be much gnashing of teeth in the corridors of the Scottish Football Association (SFA) today as Scottish Premier League Chairmen (SPL) meet. Assuming anyone has any teeth left. Everyone who is anyone in our national game has been knocking six bells out of one another since Glasgow Rangers went out of business. A few weeks before the new season starts, the game is in turmoil. It’s a hair’s breadth from uproar since Scottish Football League (SFL) Chairmen became the mice that roared. But it could have been very different.

We need to persuade others to do things every day and in the end there always has to be a resolution. Learning to get more of the outcome you want will make you happier, healthier and helps stop you going home and kicking the cat. (I would not like to be an SPL Chairman’s cat right now.)

Persuasion is not about logic. In fact logic can be a red, or blue, rag to a bull. Pounding on unthinkingly, even if you are right, breeds resentment. And when much of what you say turns out to be subjective, selective or just plain wrong sooner or later you are likely to be toast.

Emotion rather than logic is right up there. Jeez, any football fan can tell you that. If Rangers and the SPL had cottoned on to this Scottish football would be in a different place. A difficult one of course, but a better one. There were two big mistakes that should be a lesson to all of us when we are in a difficult spot and need to find a way out. They apply even if we think we are the top banana.

Firstly Rangers, early doors, should have apologised: A proper, unqualified, well-worded, carefully crafted apology ideally delivered by manager Ally McCoist. Some would have rejected it, abused it or used it for their own moronic purposes. But so what? You apologise because it’s the right thing to do, not because of the consequences. Rangers were big enough to do that, and when they were big enough it would have meant something.

The lack of an apology was compounded by the ill-judged Don Corleone act by McCoist in demanding that SFA panel members ruling on the club be publicly named. That was a game-changer. Rangers lost the neutrals and perhaps more importantly, in McCoist, the best ambassador they had. I am not a Rangers fan but always admired him as clever, humorous and articulate in his playing, television and managerial career. He blew it, big time.

Secondly, the SPL and SFA should have had earlier discussions with the clubs in the SFL, a body comprising hundreds of years of experience and thousands of hours of service given to clubs they love, mostly without the benefit of fat cheques. Many months ago, these two bodies should have convened meetings/made calls/had brainstorming sessions/looked to the future and listened to what the bulk of the members of the SFL had to say. Yes, listened. That just might have allowed the put-upon in the SFL enough time and space to come to an accommodation. Rather than that a messenger was sent out from the Big SFA/SPL Table with a stone tablet and maybe half a dozen buttered Greggs scones. It told them the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse were already riding to their clubs. And these clubs knew it must all be true because it was already in the papers.

It would be difficult to plan a process better designed to “get it right up” those you needed to have onside and do you a service. Bad behaviour begets disastrous consequences.

Had all that happened months ago the SFA, SPL and SFL might now be talking positively about long-overdue reconstruction (something everyone agrees on), a renegotiation of TV deals with The Rangers in a First Division (very contrite and properly punished), and a bit less rancour (too late for that).

Sorry is more than a word: it’s a look right into your heart and your soul. To pull it off you need to see the big picture, take an objective position, work it all out, set your course, convince your mind to believe in it and deliver it properly.

And listening? It’s the most powerful gift you can give yourself when you are in a tight spot: it is rapport, empathy, interest, engagement, charm and charisma. You stop telling them and stop selling to them; you stop demonising them; you start understanding them; and then can begin attending to their interests.

Next time you blow it big-time, apologise quickly. And mean it.  Then listen. Listen much more than you think you need to. It takes courage and leadership to do both. There has been precious little of either in Scottish Football recently.


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about the author

Russell Wardrop is our Chief Executive. If you would like to know more about this subject, drop him an email and we will be in touch.

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