IAN Maxwell, the Partick Thistle managing director, believes that the Project Brave proposals put forward by the Scottish Football Association are missing the point in addressing the problems within youth development in Scottish football.
And he revealed that the game’s two governing bodies; the SPFL, of which he is a board member, and the SFA, have yet to even discuss Project Brave with one another.
Maxwell is concerned that the association’s flagship plan for youth development only deals with developing players up until the age of 17, age groups where Scotland are currently strong.
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He believes that the problem area is in trying to get players to take the final step into senior football, at the point where the SFA’s responsibility for their development ends and the SPFL’s remit begins.
Until both organisations come together to agree upon a joined-up plan to take kids all the way through into first-team football, he fears that clubs will be concentrating funds into the wrong areas, and they will be doomed to repeating the same mistakes again.
“At some point there has to be a conversation between the SFA and the SPFL,” Maxwell said. “We need to get together and this needs to be a joined-up approach that says we want to get from where we are to there. If all of the clubs are going to have that extra expenditure, where is the best place to put that? What is the best way?
“If you look at the stats, our under-17s have qualified for the last four Euros. We are one of only four countries to have done that, the others being England, Germany and Holland.
“The SFA are focusing on players up to the age of 17, and the reason for that is because that’s Club Academy Scotland’s remit. That’s fine, but all that’s going to happen is that we’re going to win the Euros at under-17 level, and the under-19s still won’t qualify, and the under-21s will still be poor.
“I don’t get the logic of not paying any attention to anything that is happening elsewhere. That is what the SFA are proposing, and there’s not actually been a conversation between both organisations that asks; ‘how do we fix this?’ “That has to happen, because a lot of clubs are starting to realise that they will be killing themselves financially if they are spending the money in the wrong areas.
“The point is, that part doesn’t need improved as much as we’re being asked to improve it, and the bit that is being ignored needs improved massively.”
Despite his misgivings around Project Brave, Maxwell confirmed that Partick Thistle have themselves put in a notification of interest to become one of the county’s ‘performance academies’.
With their new £4 million training complex in the pipeline, he hopes that his own club can be at the forefront of pushing through positive changes for player development in Scotland.
“It was a real question over whether we should do it or not, but we’ve done it because we want to be there,” he said. “We don’t think they are going about it the right way, but we’ve took into account that it might well change.
“That might lead to colt teams or reserve teams or whatever, but I think we’re among a few clubs who have done it because we don’t want to be out of the loop.”