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Sunday, 08 January 2017 18:24

Opinion: Daniel Shields on Double Pass coming to Scotland

Written by  Daniel Shields
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Media reports this week suggest the Scottish FA are to bring Belgian football development specialists Double Pass on board in a bid to ensure that the ambitious Project Brave is delivered effectively. 
 
The advisory group, whose current clients include the German FA, the English Premier League and the Bundesliga have a track record of delivering positive results in the field of youth development. The Scottish FA will be hoping that their help will assist new Performance Director Malky Mackay in improving the youth game. 
 
Project Brave is the latest programme of improvement from Scottish FA working groups and includes a number of changes to shake up youth academy football in Scotland. These changes include the re-introduction of the reserve league, a winter futsal league for players under the age of 16 and a radical reduction in the number of academy players from 2300 to around 1200. 
 
In 2010 they asked former First Minster Henry McLeish to draft a report on the state of the game in Scotland. The first part of his review included 54 recommendations, from the introduction of a winter break to the investment of up to £500m in the grassroots game. Some of these recommendations have since been implemented and some have not. 
 
Interestingly, one of McLeish’s recommendations was “to achieve more accountability, responsibility and transparency for youth development.” Could this have anything to do with the employment of a set of experts who have been tasked with doing almost exactly that six-and-half-years later? Probably, but better late than never, eh?
 
Of the 42 ‘professional’ clubs in Scotland there are 29 youth academies, many with different approaches and philosophies. They all have one thing in common – each receives money from the Scottish FA and SPFL to dedicate to the progression of their young players. 
 
The governing bodies have of course got their own benchmarking and quality control measures to ensure that this money is being spent as it should, but the fact Double Pass is being brought on board would suggest quality control is an area where further progression is required. 
 
Double Pass will be tasked with regularly auditing performance academies to ensure that they are meeting the standards set by Project Brave. One Scottish FA source told the Sunday Mail that it was the “football equivalent of having your accounts audited.”
 
The hiring of an external organisation is key in moving away from the predispositions of many who feel that self-interest is the driving force to what the Scottish FA and its clubs do with regards to youth development. 
 
Project Brave will set out what it wants clubs to do and Double Pass, along with Malky Mackay and his staff, will ensure that it is being carried out effectively and efficiently. 
 
Sceptics will say that this is another fad. The same people will also probably tell you that the McLeish report was a waste of time and that we shouldn’t have bothered with the introduction of Performance Schools.
 
It is often hard to be positive about Scottish football given what’s gone on in the past, but the fact that the Scottish FA have listened to advice and reached out for help means that they are making progress off the pitch as well as on it.
 
With a company as well renowned as Double Pass on board to improve the youth game the least we can do is give them a chance to do their job, and to do it properly. 
 
“We need to get the experts in” is often the shout after another failed qualifying campaign or disappointing international result. Well, the “experts” are in – let’s see how they get on.
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