There are many concerns over Brexit but what impact will it have on Scottish football and clubs ability to sign young players from Europe? As it stands, Scottish clubs are free to sign players from Europe, however post-Brexit clubs will have to wait until the player is 18 years old before they can sign.
Scottish clubs depend heavily on foreign players to bolster their squads, but what happens when signing players from abroad becomes more difficult? Brexit could impact the signing policy used by British football clubs and would change the landscape of the game as we know it.
In 2018 over 54% of players in the top flight of Scottish football were classed as ‘foreign’. This in itself is a worrying statistic and might force the SFA into making changes to the development of young Scottish players in order to have more of them playing in the league.
For a foreign player to be allowed access into Scotland they must first go through a structured process put in place by the SFA.
Ex-Motherwell manager and member of the SFA work permits committee Willie McLean says; “A foreign player has got to be a certain standard, if they’re not international class then the question needs to be asked ‘what is the player bringing to the country?’ They are given a six month temporary contract so that they can learn the rudiments of the English language.”
Brexit could in some way become the saviour for Scottish football as it would stop clubs outsourcing players from abroad and younger Scottish players would start to get more of a chance in the first team. The ex-Ayr United boss who also spent a period of time managing in Cyprus says; “If Brexit goes through it will become more difficult for Scottish clubs to bring in overseas players but that would then enhance the chances for the young Scottish players.”
McLean also says that Brexit could force the SFA to start investing more in youth development in Scotland and prioritise home grown players. “There’s no doubt it would put more pressure on the SFA to support the young Scottish players.”
Newmains United 2007’s coach Dylan Clark says he has to rely on sponsors and parents to fund the clubs expenses; “I dont think there is enough funding, us personally as a club haven’t received anything at all from the Government or the SFA.”
The boys club coach also thinks that if there is to be improvements in youth development then the SFA and Government can start by making more facilities available; “You are talking about £150 a week just to get on a park, thats not including any kit, any balls or any cones and you have the referee fees on top of that as well.”
He went on to say; “Even if you do have the funds there, we struggle to find pitches for a Saturday morning. I think there could definitely be more done to provide pitches.”
Willie McLean thinks the SFA could go one step further by making indoor pitches available so that young players can learn skills indoors during the winter and draws comparisons to Iceland who focus on developing home grown players.
“Iceland to me is the ideal example, because of the bad weather they shut down in the winter and they play indoor soccer. I want the SFA to make indoor arenas for the young generation.”