Lengthy advert belies importance of correct SFA appointment

IT is a measure of the peculiar nature of the position of chief executive of the Scottish Football Association that the job description, as outlined in the sit vac advertisement, should take up five sheets of A4 paper.

Such wordiness gives some indication of the difficulties likely to be encountered by a board of directors charged with the responsibility of uncovering and appointing a successor to David Taylor.

On this occasion, the normal emphases may be reversed, in that the interviewers may be required to indulge in more self-promotion than the interviewees. Perhaps in these unusual circumstances, it is not surprising that the association have made a three-pronged attack on their market.

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In addition to advertising the post and hiring a firm of professional head-hunters, there has been the usual kind of quiet canvassing of figures within the game - or with a connection to it - who have been identified as potential candidates on account of their known work.

At least two of these latter quarries - one an especially well-known and highly-respected executive - have already rejected approaches as early as the preliminary stage of checking their possible availability and their interest. The rebuttals, it is believed, have done nothing to alter the conviction within the national association's Hampden Park headquarters that there will be no shortage of suitable contenders.

Whether or not that optimism is vindicated remains to be seen. Taylor's 140,000 annual salary could not be described as excessive when set beside the earnings of chief executives in other fields.

So-called captains of industry at large corporations these days benefit from revenue packages - share options, bonuses, pensions and the like - which the SFA have never embraced and with which they cannot compete.

Nor is the prospective successor likely to be offered much more than Taylor's wage. There is, indeed, even a possibility that the association will attempt to reduce the amount. The job description describes its rewards as "a six-figure sum, with bonus, pension and a car", but the numbers involved are almost certain to be less impressive than those available in other businesses.

It is believed that there has been a drive in recent times towards cost-cutting, with at least two board members bringing a weighty influence to that area of the directors' work. As a result of the modernisation process at the SFA, the new chief executive will be expected to maintain the business profile as well as the football development, a plurality that was not required of Taylor's predecessors.

What will not happen is promotion from within. Taylor was the first secretary/chief executive in living memory to have been engaged from outside and that will continue. There is no longer a clearly-defined assistant at the association, a No 2 who would be heir apparent to the incumbent.

From Sir George Graham through Willie Allan and Ernie Walker to Jim Farry, there was a line of succession that could be identified long before the day the office holder was due to retire. Until Farry and Taylor, of course, the very idea of the head honcho at the SFA actually being sacked or, even more improbably, becoming chief executive of UEFA would have been considered a fantasy too extreme for words.

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THOSE who believe that a concise explanation of the complexities of football's offside rule would make an appropriate entrance exam for Mensa seem to have their case strengthened every time a match is played.

Like others that have been "modernised" purely for marketing reasons - in this instance, to give potential goalscorers an advantage - Law 11 was already perfect before the tinkering of recent times by the International FA Board.

For the modifications that now mystify so many spectators - including a substantial number of professional observers and commentators - referees must take most of the blame. The non-interference clause, for example, was already in place before the term "becoming active" was introduced.

But it was rendered redundant by match officials who, over the years, habitually failed to apply it, routinely disallowing goals because a player was in an offside position, nowhere near the action, and obviously taking no part. Unsurprisingly, the attempts by the legislators to compensate for referees' and linesmen's inefficiency/laziness/dereliction of duty have resulted in flaws that could lead to injustice.

In a recent match, for example, a player wide on the right played a forward pass towards a teammate who was clearly in an offside position just eight yards from goal. On its way to its intended target, however, the ball was deflected over the by-line by a defender.

There was clearly a case for penalising the offside player - his offence, after all, was committed before his opponent's intervention - rather than awarding a corner kick from which a goal might have resulted. In the scramble for more goals - originating from a need to please naive American crowds before the 1994 World Cup finals - justice seems to have been trampled underfoot.