Falkirk’s new director, Douglas Henderson, says public perception of the club is his top priority.
The former Minister of Defence in the Westminister government and chairman of the European Union’s defence committee, was unveiled as the Bairns latest board member on Monday - the first strengthening of the club governance following Martin Ritchie’s AGM pledge.
Mr Henderson, (64) held the Newcastle North seat between 1987 and 2010 and adds the directorship at the Bairns to roles within the WISE Group in Glasgow and a small public policy consultancy group. He also “runs the non-medical side” of a Harley Street hearing company and has spent several years involved with McDonalds.
“That involved a lot of work on public perception and that is something I bring to Falkirk FC,” he said.
“The way consumers react to a product - in this case the supporters to the team and club is vitally important and it’s true what they say - football without the fans is nothing.”
And Mr Henderson is a fan. He remembers catching a train, aged 10, from his home in Markinch in Fife to Falkirk Grahamston.
“I could never see from the Hope Street end though so always went to the South Enclosure. Then, when I started to take my son Keir along to Brockville we took seats in the stand.
“It was a long trip back in the day for a ten-year-old, but the 1957 team had a lot to do with it, and I had family in the town too.
“When I was an MP it was Falkirk on a Saturday and Newcastle games on a Sunday. I rarely miss a home Saturday, but midweek is more difficult with work.
That sees him attend to those roles within a myriad of companies. In the past he has worked with Rolls Royce as a work engineer and also as a TUC scriptwriter, and it’s the former role he believes can be applied to the Bairns.
“I used to look at lathes, but now it’s a business I examine and assess what is working best and what benefits the production line best.
“I know that there have already been big changes to the club from David White and Martin Ritchie. But when changes are made it’s how those changes are received by the public - and understood by the fans that matters.”
Mr Henderson also works with change management which falls into line with the chairman’s review of the structure of the football club and it’s ability to prosper in the future.
“We have to keep moving forward,” adds the Bairns new man. “A club doesn’t stand still for long and begins to move backwards.”
With his political background, Mr Henderson could supply Falkirk with key expertise in negotiating the bureaucracy for future projects and securing grants from a variety of areas to supplement TV income.
“We must ensure fans of the club remain Falkirk fans at the matches in the stadium, and don’t evolve into TV fans supporting from the living room.
“As welcome as TV revenue is - and as financially important to the club - the gulf between English and Scottish income is as big as I can remember, and the same can be said in the difference between the top division and the rest.
“That’s something to look at addressing, not just at a local level - but football on a whole needs a restructure.”