Ayr Chairman on All Seater Stadiums and the NCL

Last updated : 20 January 2010 By Honestman

AUFC Centenery badge smallAyr United chariman, Lachlan Cameron has had a swip[e at the Taylor report and ground licensing regulations.

In his blog he has discussed Cup matches against clubs who are not covered by the National Club Licensing Audit.  Talking about the 3rd round match against Deveronvale this season he said;

'There were a lot of mixed feelings about this draw when it came out of the bag (On the first attempt by the way), but as a club, we are quite happy with it. I think it's good that the Scottish Cup is open to teams outside the SPL/SFL. I know highland league and other member clubs have long been a part of the cup, but it is only recently that Junior teams have been allowed in.' 

It makes the Scottish Cup more credible and a much more "Open" tournament. The only problem I have is that a lot of clubs don't have suitable grounds for larger supports or grounds suitable to host a professional game.  Last year for instance, we had our tie against Lochee postponed numerous times due to the weather which is obviously out of the control of the clubs, but the fact that they did not have floodlights meant that the postponed fixture had to be played during the day midweek when the majority of supporters work and were unable to attend. '

He referred to the controversy when Ayr asked for the match to be moved to Ayr or a neutral ground and were refused.  'I was also very aware that their terracing was made up of a grass knoll and a frozen one at that. Not ideal obviously.'  Ayr asked for a review on the regulations at that time.

He went on to say

'We accepted that and asked that they change the rules going forward so that a professional standard was maintained throughout the competition. Nothing has changed so far as far as I'm aware, but I'm hoping that there will be changes to entry requirements soon. I'm not suggesting that teams shouldn't be allowed to enter, but I do think that the venue should be suitable for each tie'.

It is interesting to note however, that if Lochee had won that tie, their next tie against Kilmarnock would not have been allowed to have been played there.'

This was because Kilmarnock are a Premier League team. 

'That may sound a bit rich coming from a club that has a rickety old stand and three sides of terracing, but games for us don't get any better or bigger than against those from up the road and you would be hard pressed to find anyone who was here for that tie last year complaining about the facilities or suitability of the ground for that tie. The weather was horrendous that night and it was quite cold, but that tie managed to take the back pages of the papers away from the Old Firm for a few days. '

Specifically for Lachlan though was the positive press that came from this match on the ambiance of terraced stadiums.

'The thing that has stuck with me from that game was the amount of positive press that it generated from the press and pundits as a good old fashioned game in a great atmosphere at a great old fashioned ground. They all seemed to enjoy the fact that it was in a ground that wasn't a soulless all seated ground. It makes me wonder why we are all being forced to provide all seater stadiums when clearly most supporters would prefer to stand and it obviously generates better atmosphere when supporters are closer together not to mention it's not so bloody cold when standing on a packed terracing compared to an exposed seat.'


With a swipe at the Taylor report he said;

'Maybe I'm naïve, but I think that the government's reaction to the Taylor report was overblown and has cost Scottish clubs millions of wasted pounds. The Taylor report concluded that the main reason for the disaster was overcrowding and no numerical accounting of the standing areas, but the government decided that the way forward is all seater stadia for the top leagues. I'm not qualified to comment on other clubs and their needs for standing or sitting, but I do feel qualified to comment on our own needs. Even if/when Ayr United makes it to the top league in Scotland, we would be much better off with the majority of the ground being standing. These standing areas can be made safer in various ways.'

This prompted a comment on the National Club  Licensing Audit  and the Health and Safety issues which are costing small clubs like Ayr a lot of money.

'The reason that I am talking about this just now is that we have our own National Club Licensing audit coming up and I am reminded of the costs and challenges of attempting to achieve NCL.  The system has been around for the last five years and the idea of NCL is to improve the standards of the clubs and the stadia of those involved in football.  Standards have been set and those in membership of the SPL and SFL must abide by the criteria if they wish to be granted the license.

We as a club applaud the efforts to improve the standards of all member clubs and the game and are backers of the NCL program. There are many positives and very few negatives. The positives are obviously improved standards and conformation to set guidelines that each club can be compared to.

The main negative is the speed that the bar keeps being raised (yearly additions to the criteria) is unrealistic for a lot of clubs to be able to comply and there is not enough representation on the NCL board by SFL member clubs. There are clubs who make decisions on NCL criteria as part of the board who are not affected because their clubs do not have to comply with the rules. This is clearly unacceptable, but steps are being taken to rectify this.

Ayr United does not have our license because we failed in one area last year. The lux levels of our floodlights are too low.


Unfortunately it is not an easy fix as the lights are very expensive and access to the bulbs has been made almost impossible by the Health and Safety department. We are no longer allowed to let someone climb up the ladders to change the bulbs and as our lights do not bend down to the ground, we must get a crane that goes all the way up to the top and is flexible enough that it can be placed in awkward positions on the ground to allow access. As you can imagine, this is very expensive and currently out of our reach, so for the near future achieving NCL is not going to happen.

We do however recognize the importance of achieving these standards and are working towards solving the floodlight problem and clearing the road for AUFC to achieve NCL.  My only issue with playing clubs outside of the SPL/SFL in the Scottish Cup is that they do not have to comply with NCL standards and to me that is unacceptable although the Highland League clubs have shown interest in compliance.

This is why it is my opinion that if a club in the SFL/SPL come up against a club whose association don't require compliance with NCL, the tie should be moved to a neutral ground if the tie is scheduled for the non-compliant club. While this may be difficult, it is important to maintain the standard of the competition. There are two audits as a part of NCL. The first is the youth audit and I am pleased to say that the Academy passed with flying colours and will be receiving the full award. The second part is non-youth and this year will be focused on the following:

Ground Criteria
Safety Certificate (including relevant amendments and a clear reference to the ground capacity).
Safety Policies and Contingency Plans.
Medical Risk Assessment and Medical Plan.
Disability Policy and evidence of promotion of this policy.
Disability Access Audit report from a third party.
Current summary of club actions following the disability access audit.

Sporting and Medical Criteria
Legal documents confirming training ground ownership or contract or service agreement that includes the full period of the season for each facility.

Legal & Admin
Club Statutes (unless provided previously).
Confirmation of Ownership/Long Term Lease (unless provided previously).
Job Description for CEO/Club Secretary (if position is full time).
Job Description for Finance Manager (if position is full time).
Job Description and Qualifications for Safety Officer.
Job Description and Qualifications/experience for Media Officer (if position is full time)
Job Description for Commercial Manager (if position is full time)
Job Description and Qualifications for Team Manager (if position is full time). His DOB should also be made available.
Job Description and Qualifications for Asst. Team Manager (if position is full time). His DOB should also be made available. Job Description for Club Doctor (if position is full time).
Job Description for Physiotherapist (if position is full time).
Job Description and Qualifications for Head of Youth Development (if position is full time). His DOB should also be made available.
Job Description and Qualifications for each youth coach (if their positions are full time). Their DOB's should also be made available. Job Description and Training Record for Child Protection Officer. Job Description for Welfare Officer (if position is full time).

Finance Criteria
Last set of club accounts.
Codes of Practice Criteria
Child and Coach Protection Policy together with evidence of its communication to personnel.
Registration number with Disclosure Scotland.
Club Register of Disclosure Checks.
Club Policy or Policies on Unacceptable Conduct together with evidence of communication.
Annual summary of actions taken to prevent and respond to

Unacceptable Conduct.
Club Customer Charter or similar such document. Together with evidence of its communication.
Club review of its customer charter/activities.

We expect to pass in all of the areas except for floodlight lux levels and even that may be achieved if we get some luck thrown our way.'

He went on to say;