Jul 14 2011
Scottish Junior Footballers Get A Raw Deal Getting Transferred
Some of the most exciting and entertaining football you will see in Scotland is played in the Junior Leagues. I remember when I was working to secure European funding for Newtongrange Star’s new stadium I attended several of their games at the old Star Park and never failed to be impressed by the standard of play – ninety minutes nonstop football.
One tends to hear less about the actual internal running of the Junior game and assume it is pretty straightforward. Not so! I have just had a letter from a constituent taking up an issue on behalf of his son who plays football on a semi professional basis in Scotland.
He plays for a junior club, which operates to the regulations of the Scottish Junior Football Association.
Players sign a contract for a set period with the club. When that contract comes to an end, the player can be offered a new contract by his current club, or by any other junior club.
However, if he agrees terms with another club his registration is still ‘retained’ by the club he is being transferred from. Even although personal terms are agreed, his new club cannot register him until they have paid his previous club. Usually this amounts to what the player was paid during the previous season.
In some cases players have been ‘locked out’ of the junior game for four years or more. Players who have moved to Australia or elsewhere are still retained, presumably on the basis that they may return at some future date to the UK and Scotland in particular.
However, this agreement is only between Junior clubs. If a player wants to leave a junior club and play for Hearts, Hibs, or an East of Scotland league team he can move without compensation but his registration is still ‘retained’ by his last junior club. This means if they want to return to a junior club at any time in the future his previous junior club will look for compensation.
According to people like Fraser Wishart (Chief Executive of the Professional Footballers Association in Scotland) this is ‘an anachronism’ but not only that it could be illegal under European Union legislation. It appears to be at odds with the ‘Bosman ruling’ of 1995 which secured the right of ‘freedom of movement’ for professional footballers.
This case was an important decision on the free movement of labour and had a profound effect on the transfer of footballers within the European Union (EU). The case banned restrictions on foreign EU members within the national leagues and allowed players in the EU to move freely to another club at the end of their term.
If this is the case for professional and semi-professional players in the EU it should be the same for Scottish Juniors. I intend to take up this issue with Michel Barnier the European Commissioner for the EU Internal Market and try and secure freedom of movement for young Scottish players.