SCOTTISH clubs will soon be unable to bring in some of Europe’s top starlets under rules set to come into force after Brexit.

The Home Office is almost certain to issue much stricter guidelines in allowing foreign players to work in the UK.

However, the SPFL bosses are trying to persuade Westminster to have a sliding scale in deciding who is allowed to play in Scotland.

In the past, Celtic have cashed in on the likes of Virgil van Dijk and Victor Wanyama, who arrived from Holland and Belgium respectively, before they earned top international status while Rangers have introduced players such as Borna Barisic, Ianis Hagi and Cedric Itten in recent times.

But Old Firm fans are unlikely to see stars of this calibre arriving at their clubs following the closure of the January transfer window.

Brexit will then make it impossible for any Scottish club to sign promising young foreign stars who can then be sold on at a profit.

The Hoops paid £3.25million for Van Dijk from Gronigen before selling him for £15million. Wanyama arrived on a £900,000 switch from SC Beerschot and moved in a £12.5million deal, with both players joining Southampton.

BIG DEAL…Victor Wanyama was sold to Southampton for £12.5million.

League secretary Iain Blair, speaking to the Scottish Sun, admitted: “It’s going to make it much more difficult for Celtic to operate with the business model they’ve used for the last decade or so – and which Rangers have moved into more recently – which is finding young players who are potential stars but operating under the radar, bringing them in and developing them into a full international.

“Then they can sell them for a small fortune. Unfortunately, it looks as though that element is going to be much more challenging.

“That’s obviously not good news, but it’s very important to emphasise that discussions have not yet been concluded. The Home Office do accept that Scotland is a different animal in football terms to England, Northern Ireland and Wales and no binding decision has been made at the moment.”

Blair added: “The Home Office is very keen to have a points-based system, which will look principally at the experience of the player in terms of his international appearances.

“Ideally, what they’ve always wanted was a single system which would apply to the whole of the UK. I believe, though, they’re beginning to realise that there is a significance difference between the industries in the four component countries.

“At the moment, I think that’s been placed in the ‘Too Difficult’ pile. What they’ve done is to say that the Appeal Panel will continue to operate in Scotland for the January transfer window.

“That means we’ll still have the ability to make our own decisions and take our own view as to the contribution – or otherwise – that any potential signing might make in our league.

“But the difference will come when the summer window re-opens on June 9 or 10 and there’s obviously going to need to be a lot of work done between now and then.

CRUNCH…Rangers left-back Borna Barisic challenges Celtic speedster Jeremie Frimpong.

“My view is that we’re not going to persuade the Home Office to move away from that relatively formulaic points-based system, relying heavily on international appearances, which will be common across Britain.

“One of the matters we’ve raised is that England is at No.4 in the FIFA rankings, so if you have a player who’s been capped by France that’s significantly more important than someone who’s playing for Lithuania when it comes to improving their top tier.

“You can see the logic behind it, but Scotland are at 48 in those rankings – with Wales at 18 and Northern Ireland at 45 – so there should be an adjustment in which takes that into account when it comes to players moving to Scotland.

“The one thing the Home Office has made absolutely clear is that they do not want an appeals process. Their idea is that you either meet the criteria for coming in or you don’t and that’s it.

“Any potential signings will be assessed only on their international outings from the previous 12 months, but my understanding is that no uncapped players will be approved.”


About Author


Acclaimed author Alex Gordon wrote the biography of Scotland international legend Denis Law, entitled 'King and Country'. He is a former columnist with World Soccer magazine and Scottish correspondent of respected European journal L'Equipe.

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