Almost as soon as the somewhat surprising news of Stewart Regan’s resignation as Scottish FA chief executive broke, speculation started to swirl over who could replace the maligned chief. The fact that there was speculation at all concerning who might take an administrative role was distinctly Scottish football. This doesn’t happen in other countries, at least not to the same extent. Most English football fans would struggle to name their FA’s chief executive.
Indeed, over the past few days a number of names have been put forward – Darryl Broadfoot, Gordon Strachan (LOL), Henry McLeish, Alan Burrows, Ian Maxwell and most prominently Leeann Dempster. For many, the Hibernian chief executive, who already has a powerful ally within the Scottish FA in the form of Rod Petrie, is the frontrunner having turned around the fortunes of the Leith club after doing a good job at Motherwell before that.
But beyond Dempster, there are other credible candidates who have barely been mentioned. One sticks out more than the others. Why is Aberdeen chief executive Duncan Fraser not on the shortlist? Consider that Jackie McNamara has been linked with the role, it seems peculiar that someone so integral to the turnaround of the country’s third biggest club hasn’t been endorsed.
There’s a good chance that you’ve never even heard of Fraser. Even the most ardent of Aberdeen fans know little about the club chief executive. He’s a low key figure who operates with very little drama and theatre. That’s what the Scottish FA needs at this point. Regan was very much a public figure at the head of the governing body and that left him as an open target. Fraser would be the antithesis of that.
His record at Aberdeen speaks for itself. Of course, chairman Stewart Milne is the dominating figurehead of the Pittodrie club, but Fraser is the one charged with the day-to-day running of the club, as well as the long-term planning for the Dons. Fraser might not give as many interviews as Milne, he might not be as high profile, but he is proven in his role in the North-east.
Not so long ago, Aberdeen weren’t in a great way, financially. Fraser was instrumental in the striking of the deal that saw the club become debt free in 2014, leading the financial turnaround which resulted in the Dons last year posting an operating profit of £533,000, with turnover increasing by £2 million on the previous year.
Perhaps most pertinently, given the discussion over the future of Hampden Park at the moment, Fraser has overseen a planning project which will see Aberdeen move into a new £50 million stadium in just a few years’ time. Last week saw the Dons receive the green light to finally start construction on their new ground and a state-of-the-art training complex at Kingsford, with the development set to completely transform the club. Much of that is down to Fraser.
Many are treating the search for a new Scottish FA chief executive in the same way they are treating the search for a new national team manager. The hiring process for the latter depends on factors many football fans are unfamiliar with. Ultimately, it might result in the appointment of someone not even on the Scottish football radar. Regan, for instance, was hired from a role at Yorkshire County Cricket Club.
There’s a valid argument to be made that hiring from outside the Scottish game might be beneficial. Club politics can get overwhelming and so appointing someone untainted by that could give the Scottish FA the clean slate that it probably needs. An outside perspective at this point might be best.
But if we’re really embarking on a process of public shortlisting then Fraser deserves to be in the reckoning. In recent years, Aberdeen have become the epitome of a well-run club, on and off the field, and Fraser might be the individual embodiment of that.