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Gordon Smith: New SFA president Rod Petrie has work to do to repair his tarnished public image

© SNSNew SFA president Rod Petrie and new vice-president Mike Mulraney
New SFA president Rod Petrie and new vice-president Mike Mulraney

I have had my share of fall-outs with Rod Petrie over the years.

We had a disagreement back when he was Hibernian chief executive and I was working as an agent on behalf of a client.

Then, when I was the chief executive of the SFA and he was on the Association Board, there were times when we would have an exchange of views.

We do speak now, though, and I respect what he has done for Hibs over the years.

In terms of his work with the ruling body, he has been very quiet and, at least in part, progressed by staying put.

He has now risen to become president, a high office to attain through being the next cab on the rank.

It was with disquiet I noticed he didn’t hold an open media conference to mark his new post.

I don’t remember that ever happening before when a new president was appointed, and it is not a great sign.

We had Ian Maxwell, the current SFA chief executive, step into the breach to pay tribute to Petrie’s skills and human qualities.

That is fair enough. As the Association figurehead, he is entitled to have his say.

However, the fact remains if Rod wants to change public perception of him, he is going to have to do the heavy lifting himself.

Because, make no mistake, there is work to be done there.

His dismissive statement about the Hibs fans’ pitch invasion at the 2016 Scottish Cup Final at Hampden, where he sought to justify the action as “114 years of exuberance”, isn’t easily forgotten.

It struck entirely the wrong tone. A number of Rangers players, remember, were attacked that day.

What was almost worse than the lack of contrition at the time was Petrie’s failure to apologise in the days that followed.

How many times have we seen an initial statement adjusted once a proper analysis of the situation has been carried out?

It would not have been difficult.

And the fact that, years after the match, police were still taking action against those identified as offenders by television footage, tells you it was anything but a minor incident.

Crucially too, Petrie was not only Hibs chairman at the time, but also a member of the SFA Board.

The Scottish Cup Final is the country’s showpiece game, and the culmination of a tournament run by the SFA.

So, as I say, Rod has plenty of work to do.

My hope is that he will embrace the opportunity, and try to make a positive impact on the Scottish game.

He won’t have things all his own way.

As I remember very well, the board is a democracy and, as such, will sometimes arrive at decisions which he doesn’t wholly agree with.

However, he will be a figure of considerable influence and should not shy away from representing the views of the Association through the media.

Yes, as the chief executive, Ian Maxwell is effectively the public face of the SFA.

The president, though, should not be a stranger to the fans, especially when it is someone with Petrie’s experience.

These are exciting times for Scottish football. The club game is full of character and populated by big characters.

There are challenges to be met.

How to make best use of the technology now available, how to build on the success of the SWNT in reaching the World Cup Finals, and how to tackle the worrying number of incidents involving fans at our grounds.

To succeed in his new, high-profile role, Rod Petrie will need to deal with these issues – and be seen to be dealing with them.