Smith unveils blueprint for the future of Scottish football

Soccer statesman Alex Smith last night revealed his five-point fans’ charter designed to lure supporters back to the Scottish game.

League Managers’ Association chairman Smith insists only a common sense approach will solve the sport’s problems.

The former Aberdeen boss and current Falkirk technical director insists Scottish football chiefs must … Make Friday night football a long-term experiment.

Use television money to fund discount ticket prices for fans.

Create a multi-club season ticket initiative.

Introduce affordable pricing for all supporters.

Adopt sensible fixture scheduling that caters for fans.

Smith said: “Friday night football offers a lot of positives. We need to get fans back so we must see if it can be successful.

“But it needs to be brought into practice in a controlled way rather than just throwing it on people.

“The experiment needs to be long-term rather than just a couple of games.

“It would be more beneficial to certain clubs in certain towns. Hamilton, for example, suffer because they are so close to Glasgow and the Old Firm.

“They also have Motherwell and Airdrie nearby so I can see Friday night football working for them.

“There was an increased gate for the recent Friday night game between Partick Thistle and Morton but we need to see if that was a one-off.”

On Saturday, an adult paying £10 at the gate can take an unlimited number of kids into Firhill to watch Thistle v Livingston.

Smith said: “That’s the kind of thinking we need. Football must look at the fans and ask how we can get them into our grounds. We must make it attractive.

“What happened to the tradition of father and son going to a game? “Some pricing is horrendous. I spoke with a Stirling Albion fan who took his two kids to a game against Dundee and he told me the day cost him £70. How is a working man expected to pay that?

“Why is he being asked to pay that when there is so little money around to live on? “Fans can’t afford what’s being asked.

Fathers can just wait for the game to come on TV and watch it with their kids.”

Smith insists Falkirk could be a model for the future.

He said: “Our crowd at Dundee last Saturday was more than 4600 which was the third biggest in Scotland. The previous week we were at Ross County and 4300 were there despite the 160 miles between the clubs.

“That’s down to a good brand of football. Fans won’t watch boring football played by senior professionals who are just in it to see what they can get out of it.

“Supporters want to see the game played in an open manner, end to end with both teams trying to score – that’s what football is meant to be. We need our games to become theatre and clubs to build a family spirit.”

Many fans insist fixture scheduling treats them with contempt and Smith is adamant more thought has to go into the diary.

He said: “Games which are suited to a Friday night should be given the green light and others should be on Saturdays if it makes more sense logistically.

“I reckon Falkirk fans would buy into the idea for home games but I’m not so sure about our large travelling support taking on long distances for Friday games.

“Other clubs such as Livingston wouldn’t be affected too much because they don’t carry a large travelling support.”

Smith swears Scottish football missed an opportunity last week when the SPL unveiled an £80million, five -year windfall from Sky and ESPN.

He said: “It was a wonderful opportunity for clubs to take two or three million from the pot to offer fans discounted prices.

“Give supporters something rather than just allowing the money to be piled into clubs again and go back out the door in salaries. Fans want a bigger league but they’re not getting it so it was a chance for football to do something for them.

“It would be about TV giving something back and allowing kids into games for next to nothing. Television needs fans to come along because half empty grounds are a turn-off.”

Smith would love to see a new approach to the season ticket system. He said: “Clubs should be more co-operative with each other.

“Season ticket holders at Rangers and Celtic number between 30,000 and 40,000 each. Falkirk has about 2500 and Hearts around 9000 and it’s less at clubs such as Dundee United and Motherwell.

“Why don’t we have a scheme where a season ticket gets you into a home game and qualifies for a discounted rate at away games.

“Start applying logic. There are 40,000 Rangers fans at home games but they take only 5000 or so to away matches.

“That leaves 35,000 fans not going to a game but if they thought they could get a discounted ticket for an away match with their Rangers season ticket then there is an incentive.

“They are supporting their football clubs to the tune of £500 or £600 by buying a season ticket and as members of a football society they should get something back.”