When it comes down to it we are all fans, fans of this or fans of that or, hopefully if you are visiting this site, a fan of football. Most football fans attach their particular loyalty to a club, some just to the national side, and a very few others just like the game in all its shapes and forms. And such a man is John Henderson, granted not a name that will trip off the tongue in the way of Jim Baxter, Denis Law or Kenny Dalglish perhaps, but very soon the name of this senior civil servant, who is currently working for the SFA, will be known to every football fan in Scotland who craves to have the 2008 European Championships in this country.
Prior to being seconded Henderson was working as Head of the Private Finance Unit at the Scottish Executive. His move enables him to work for the SFA in building the best bid possible for Euro 2008. After he had settled in for a couple of weeks he took some time out to talk to ScotlandEuro2008.net and reflect on and discuss what has to be done over the next 12 months. He knows that he carries the hopes and objectives of a nation of football lovers in his care. Hearing what he had to say and the way he said it, I am confident that the weight of expectation will be balanced in such a way that the best bid possible will be a lasting testament to his involvement with the project.
It has to be recognised that while we are a small nation, we have one of the highest population - fan ratio in Europe. Some objectors to the very idea of a bid for such a prestigious tournament should sit back for a second and think about that. Here is something else we should all think about. One of the first things John said to me was a gentle reminder that the government has yet to decide exactly what size of financial package it would be able to offer in supporting the bid. The government will consider what it can offer once the full cost has been considered taking account of what the SFA, the clubs (which would enjoy long term benefits from upgraded/new grounds) and other contributors could offer.
Now the lack of 'club culture' baggage John brings to the job is, in my opinion, one of the most important things about him. The misty eyed sentimental views on any particular clubs history will not sway him from defining the clarity of vision required for the job on his desk. However, he is not blind to the history and glamour associated with the game in Scotland that attracts so many of us to the frustrating hobby of watching football. He recognises that the fans and fervour they create can provide the colour and atmosphere that the European Championships deserve. While the fans have their job, they will come into the picture after a great deal of work has been done behind the scenes.
The foundation has to be laid and that is where John comes into play. He will be supporting a Steering Committee chaired by the SFA's Chief Executive, David Taylor. "My role in supporting the Steering Committee will require me to speak to all those parties with an interest in bringing the Championships to Scotland," John told ScotlandEuro2008.net, adding: "There will of course be different interests and views, with such as Scottish Enterprise, visitScotland and Sports Scotland having an input in discussions."
As you see the Steering Committee has some intriguing interests drawn together to consider the reports and options presented by Henderson and his team. The fact that the bid is setting off under the auspices of a group with wide ranging interests means that half way down the line someone does not say that the SFA have forgotten to make sure people have somewhere to sleep after the game!
Top that for a view from an office! If John ever needs inspiration for the task in hand, he just needs to walk a few yards to see this. (sns)
He has already been out meeting and greeting the clubs that would be interested in making this project work. It is not just the obvious 'usual suspects' list but a wide range of 'partners' will be involved in the ambitious project. Henderson knows that there will need to be a number people with different skills to be moulded into a team which can deliver the best for Scotland. He has not gathered a large team as yet but has to consider the scale of the project and what can be contributed by 'partners' before he identifies the people and the number he wants to work with him.
There has been little time to sit back and settle into his new role, with discussions already taking place with clubs to consider their plans for involvement in the Euro2008 project. He said: "I have been impressed that the clubs have been talking to the Local Authorities in their area, considering the facilities they have and what can be utilised now just for Euro2008 but beyond. The SFA have made it clear that in offering expressions of interest, clubs have to consider the wider social benefits that can be accrued to the community at large". John and his team (which will include Pieda Consultancy for this aspect of the project) will be taking careful note of the responses to this important missive from the SFA. The responses are due back by the end of July and the SFA will be considering what clubs have done to date along with what they have in their immediate and future plans.
Henderson has been encouraged by the interest and expertise brought to bear on the opportunity for Scotland by the clubs and other interested parties. There does not appear to be an assumption that things will be handed to the clubs without some commitment as the government is involved. He is looking forward to drawing on the experience of a wide range of people throughout the game to make the SFA bid one that is hard to beat.
Some may think that Scotland is too small, too insular, too short sighted to consider making such a commitment in terms of time and money. As the man in the centre of all this it was interesting to see that all during my conversation with John he did not look like a man fazed by the enormity of the challenge or by the fact that Scotland can deliver. Scotland has fans all over the world and our influence in all areas of world affairs and business is there for all to see. The fact that someone in Montevideo took the trouble to send John Henderson a 'good luck' email shows that even he has made an impression already. I doubt if it will be his last.