Humza Yousaf has pledged to give young people from deprived backgrounds free football club memberships if he is successful in the SNP leadership race.
Speaking ahead of a visit to a football ground in Edinburgh, the health secretary said he would partner with the game’s ruling body in Scotland, the SFA, to deliver the plan.
He claims the initiative could tackle obesity, improve community engagement and develop young talent.
Yousaf, who is running against Kate Forbes and Ash Regan to replace Nicola Sturgeon as First Minister, also said he would accelerate the roll out of the so-called “Fan Bank”, a fund which would help local communities buy stakes in their sports clubs.
Announcing the plan, he said: “One of our great assets in Scotland is our love of the beautiful game, and as Scotland’s next first minister I want to work with the SFA to harness the full power of football.
“I want to help develop our grassroots clubs where every community in Scotland has a football club that boys and girls can access free of charge – particularly in areas of deprivation.
“Initially, I would want to see this roll out targeted towards children for low income households who may struggle to pay for the costs of football club memberships in the midst of this cost of living crisis.”
Yousaf said he had already started talks about entering a strategic partnership with the SFA in his current role as health secretary.
On the fan bank rollout – which was pledged in the SNP’s 2021 manifesto – he added: “As a massive football fan myself, I know that both on and off the field clubs that are rooted in their communities can help transform lives.
“Fans should have real influence over the future of the clubs they love and support.
“So as first minister, I’ll accelerate the SNP’s bold football Fan Bank that will give fans access to funds that will give them a real say over how their clubs are run – be that buying a small stake in the club or perhaps outright ownership.
“Fan Bank will help make a positive change to football that’s often run for wealthy business people, and instead put real power in the hands of the paying punters and the local community.”