Making Scottish Football Better

The place to discuss Scottish football
Snuff
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Making Scottish Football Better

Post by Snuff » Mon Nov 16, 2015 2:09 pm

The last week or more has been "funny peculiar" when it comes to Scottish football in the mainstream media.

With neither Celtic, the Rangers Tribute Act or Scotland in action, the Scottish Football Writers Association's big guns - the Intelligence Corps of the Tartan Army - have had to put a wee bit of work into filling all those acres of white space in the papers.

Thus, when not concentrating on that on-going football soap opera Edmiston Drive they have come up with various suggestions: the Sunday Mail for instance taking-up 16-pages to do so, on how we can get more young Scots playing first team football and things could be made better.

Sadly, nobody mentioned what I feel is the big unanswered question, or by so-doing tackled (in my honest opinion) the single best thing we could do to get more young Scots playing in Scottish football.

That is - implement the same rule as operates in English Rugby's Aviva Premiership; whereby, each match-day squad must include a minimum of 76% of the players being "England-qualified".

In Scottish football, this would mean, each match-day squad would have to include 14 players who were qualified to play for Scotland.

I have repeatedly seen Scottish club officials claim this rule cannot be introduced,under EU legislation. Well, last time I looked, England was in the EU and, if the (English) Rugby Football Union can insist on 76% "England-qualified" players, why cannot the SFA?
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Skyline Drifter
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Re: Making Scottish Football Better

Post by Skyline Drifter » Mon Nov 16, 2015 3:35 pm

I would imagine nobody has cared enough to actually challenge the RFU on it legally. I'd think it would fail on a restraint of trade basis but I'm no lawyer. I don't know that much about rugby but would suspect that there is a lesser amount of imports around anyway?

The English Premiership has a minimum number of "domestic product" youths in their 25 man squads which is a way around the employment law as it doesn't preclude on nationality (you can be domestic product without being British if you came here young enough to spend time in the Youth Academy of a particular club.

Would your proposal make all that much difference to the numbers domestically? Even Celtic have a fair compliment of Scots in their first team (Gordon, Brown, Griffiths, Armstrong, Mackay-Steven, Commons, Mulgrew, Forrest). Hearts have a few foreigners in their pool but a few good young Scots also. Aberdeen are similar. Inverness are strangely short of Scots and would probably be most affected.

Outside the Premier, even Rangers don't have that many non-Scots. There are unlikely to be any other sides significantly affected though such a rule is likely to cause more problems for the likes of Berwick, Annan & ourselves than it is for Central Belt clubs. Inevitably there tend to be more from over the Border playing for us. Carlisle and Newcastle are closer than Glasgow & Edinburgh.

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Re: Making Scottish Football Better

Post by ScottishFA » Mon Nov 16, 2015 5:32 pm

The nationality qualifications in rugby are far less stringent - I think two years residency is enough to qualify you. Thankfully football hasn't gone that far yet.

Snuff
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Re: Making Scottish Football Better

Post by Snuff » Mon Nov 16, 2015 5:43 pm

Rugby nationality qualification is three-years (that is assuming no grand-parent with the relevant qualification.

Skyline Drifter wrote:

Would your proposal make all that much difference to the numbers domestically? Even Celtic have a fair compliment of Scots in their first team (Gordon, Brown, Griffiths, Armstrong, Mackay-Steven, Commons, Mulgrew, Forrest). Hearts have a few foreigners in their pool but a few good young Scots also. Aberdeen are similar. Inverness are strangely short of Scots and would probably be most affected.


If Scottish football went down the road of 76% "Scotland-qualified", it would mean, out of each 17-man match-day squad: starting 11 plus 6 subs, 3 of whom can be used, there would have to be 13 Scots out of the 17.

With contracts to be honoured, such a plan would need to be eased-in gradually, but, I reckon it could work.

Why not start with this, get it working, then, perhaps, start bringing-in quotas of Under-21s.
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Re: Making Scottish Football Better

Post by Aten » Mon Nov 16, 2015 7:38 pm

This EU restraint of trade “law” is one of the biggest red herrings ever invented. From just about anyone who needs an excuse not to do or change anything the legends that are “restraint of trade” or “falling foul of EU Employment Law” are guaranteed to be trotted out.

First and foremost it is the football clubs who employ the players, not the governing bodies. As far as I am aware there is nothing in the SFA’s registration criteria that prevents a club from employing (signing) a player of any EU nationality, colour or creed. If there were then THAT would fall foul of EU Employment Law.

However as a competition organiser is not an employer then there is nothing to prevent them from introducing criteria in order for clubs to qualify for that particular competition. This in effect means that from next season the SFA could stipulate that in order to participate in the Scottish Cup, clubs match squad must have a minimum of 75% Scots born players. Now the clubs can scream “restraint of trade” all they like but unless they can prove that a player does not get contractually paid if he does not fully participate in every game played, then employment law is satisfied.

So if a clubs entire squad contains no Scots born players (a bit extreme I know) then that is their choice, all it means is they cannot take part in the Scottish Cup next season. It is not a restraint of trade or against EU employment law because the players are being paid regardless. Any competition organiser, from the UEFA Champions’ League down can modify their qualification criteria and if certain clubs do not like it then tough – do not take part.

It is up to the football authorities to show they have the balls to make changes for the betterment of the game as a whole and stop using an EU red herring to hide behind.

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Re: Making Scottish Football Better

Post by HibeeJibee » Mon Nov 16, 2015 10:01 pm

Many players will be paid for participating in games, with "appearances bonuses". In addition to that, there would be a queue of lawyers lining-up to argue that their non-Scottish clients were being disadvantaged by the fact that clubs wouldn't sign them in the first place: in order to keep down their numbers of non-Scots to avoid having a pool of players of whom only a certain portion could feature. Football is the prime target for litigation to test everything - 'Bosman', 'Webster', current case challenging transfer windows, etc.

I don't see how this suggestion is really any different to the competition-by-competition "3 foreigners" quotas applied by UEFA before Bosman, which were struck-down?

It isn't going to happen and that is just recognising the reality for what it is. It if did I'm not sure how much real difference it would make... for the considerable majority of clubs even at the top level approaching 3/4 of their matchday squad will already be Scottish. It's the same with the Sunday Mail's call for 5pt bonuses for clubs fielding 2/3 of home grown players, or whatever it was - it won't happen, and even if it did almost everyone would already be getting the bonus, rendering it ineffectual.

I suspect you'd also see a rapid increase in the proportion of unused subs who were Scottish, as happened during SPL's U21 requirements.

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Re: Making Scottish Football Better

Post by bluedragon » Tue Nov 17, 2015 9:50 am

Article 39 of the Treaty on the European Union gives the following rights to a worker in another Member State:

• The right to look for a job
• The right to work there
• The right to reside there for that purpose
• The right to remain there
• The right to equal treatment in respect of access to employment, working conditions and all other advantages provided to the workers in that Member State

It is the last point that is the crucial point for football.

The current UEFA Champions League rules require clubs to have a named squad of 25 players and as a minimum, eight places are reserved exclusively for 'locally-trained players', of which no more than four can be 'association-trained players'.

A “club-trained player” is one of any age but who, between the age of 15 and 21 has been registered with his current club for a period, continuous or not, of three entire seasons or 36 months.

An “association-trained player” is one of any age but who, between the age of 15 and 21, has been registered with a club or with other clubs affiliated to the same association as that of his current club for a period, continuous or not, of three entire seasons or 36 months.

This complies with Article 39 because at the point the player is named in the 25-man squad it is irrespective of his nationality and age.

So if we take an extreme example of one of Snuff’s oval ball chaps deciding at age 22 to swap to the round ball, proves to be a great footballer and is then signed by an SPFL club he will be subject to the same rules as a player from outside Scotland, i.e, he could not count as a “locally-trained player”.

I can see difficulties in applying this to the 17-man matchday squad but why not? That would mean 5 or 6 of the squad being “locally-trained players”.

I do not know how 8 “locally-trained players” out of the Champions League 25-man squad came about? Looks like the result of a negotiation. In Scotland “locally-trained players” are more than likely to have been born and brought up in Scotland. To increase the number to say 10 may fall foul of “the right to equal treatment in respect of access to employment”.

“Skyline Drifter” makes a good point of clubs close to the English border signing English players who would have a different view from clubs further North.

However, I think one immediate move would be to say one goalkeeper needs to a “locally-trained player” on the basis that a 25-man squad would probably have 3 goalkeepers, a ‘keeper is a specialist position and 1 out of 3 is the same proportion as the total squad.

Although Aten makes a good point about differentiating between the clubs as “the employer” and the SPFL as “the competition organiser” I do not think that argument is sustainable. Article 39 is a responsibility for the UK Government to uphold so any initial challenge is likely to come from the European Commission to the UK Government and that is a reserved matter under the devolution settlement.

It may be that Scottish football already has 1/3rd “locally trained players” without a quota system? However, I could not help but notice on the very last day of the January 2015 transfer window International transfers were 23 “In” and 4 “Out”.

I do not profess to have any detailed knowledge of current player registration rules but if I had my way each SPFL club would need to register its squad at the start of the season and that is a maximum of 25 players with a minimum of eight being 'locally-trained players', but no more than four can be 'association-trained players'. One goalkeeper must be a 'locally-trained player'. Clubs naming a smaller squads would operate on a sliding scale for these limits.

The squad number at the start of the season is the same for the whole season. So if a club decides to only list 23 players at the start of the season then they cannot increase it to the 25-player limit later in the season say at the transfer window.

The club can call up any player aged under-21 that is not in the original squad at any time. This would not “count” against the squad limit. These players may come from their own youth set-up or from other clubs.

Players under 21 can have “dual registration” allowing them to be signed for both an SPFL club and a Highland or Lowland League club or Junior club at the same time. It would be subject to detailed rules, e.g. they cannot play for two clubs in the Scottish Cup, but may encourage SPFL clubs to give young players the odd game.

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Re: Making Scottish Football Better

Post by Snuff » Tue Nov 17, 2015 5:18 pm

I am glad I started this thread, it has produced some excellent replies, and, while I do not always agree with what is said - it is good to talk.

I had a look at the make-up of the Premiership match-day squads for the last round of games, on 8 November, and was surprised at the results. These were:

Club Scottish-qualified players / non-Scots

Dundee - 14/4
Kilmarnock - 14/4
St Johnstone - 12/6
Partick Thistle - 11/7
Aberdeen - 10/8
Dundee United - 10/8
Heart of Midlothian - 9/9
Ross County - 9/9
Celtic - 8/10
Inverness Caledonian Thistle - 7/10 : only 17 players listed
Motherwell - 6/12
Hamilton Academical - 6/12

I must admit to being surprised at the Hamilton figure, given the high praise their youth policy has gathered over recent years.

bluedragon raises an interesting point with his suggestion regarding dual-registration of young players. This works in Scottish domestic rugby, on two levels. We see players from smaller clubs, which play in the District Leagues - the equivalent of junior football, able to be dual-registered with National league teams - the equivalent (roughly) of Divisions One and Two, while the Glasgow and Edinburgh professionals - the equivalent of the Premiership, being drafted to BT Premiership clubs - the equivalent of the Championship. Indeed, several of these players spend almost their every Saturday in the supposedly amateur BT Premiership, only infrequently featuring in the professional Pro12.

It could work in football.
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Re: Making Scottish Football Better

Post by Skyline Drifter » Tue Nov 17, 2015 5:37 pm

I am confused by Bluedragon's reference to a "locally trained player". He defined "Club Trained" and "Association Trained" but then threw in this third term when proposing a rule. Is it supposed to be interchangeable with one of the other two, and if so, which one? Or is this a third different definition?

I don't think it will be particularly common in the lower divisions for clubs to include three goalkeepers in their 25 man squads, if they even have a 25 man squad. Most will only have two unless they list a teenager out of the 20's squad or have a goalkeeper coach they still register for emergencies.

I also don't particularly see why you would be prevented from adding players to make your squad up to 25 later just because you didn't fill it at the perceived "start of the season". I don't see why that should be blocked. If you want to start short handed and wait for better players to become available why shouldn't you?

The SPFL already has the Development Loan rule which allows u20's to play 1st team on loan for another SPFL club whilst playing u20's football for their parent. Last season you could use that rule to do the same in the Juniors, South of Scotland League, Lowland League, etc but they've stopped that now. Only other SPFL clubs.


From our own point of view, looking at our present designated 1st team squad:
We have given 1st team squad numbers to 28 different people though that includes the management team of James Fowler and Gavin Skelton, both still registered as players, and it includes youngsters Dean Brotherston and Jack Dickinson from the u20's who haven't yet made an 18 man matchday squad this season either.
Of the 28, 20 are Scottish born. Of the other 8:
Kyle Jacobs is South African born but would be eligible to play for Scotland as he hasn't played anywhere else and has been here since he was an infant.
Jim Atkinson is English but he's 20 and has been registered to us since he was about 14 so he would be "club trained".
Jake Pickard is English but is only 18 and in his 3rd season with us. Hasn't reached 36 months yet but he will do by the end of this season.
Owen Moxon and Jack Dickinson are both 17 and in their 2nd seasons with us. Again they will reach 36 months most likely eventually.
Jordan Marshall is also English and also 18 though in his 1st season with us.

Gavin Skelton is English and Paul Heffernan Irish and those two would be the only two who wouldn't qualify under the "trained player" catch all.

So whilst we do tend to pick up a number of players from the Carlisle and North East England areas (there are further such boys in the u20's), they also tend to come to us when young enough to pick up the club trained status.

EDITED to add, further to Snuff's follow up post, of the 18 man squad we named on Saturday:
13 Scots born + Jacobs who is qualified = 14
3 English, one of whom is the club trained Atkinson and the other two still teenagers.
1 Irish.

We'd meet the 14/4 criteria on that basis and probably have most of the season to be honest. Skelton was a sub once but it was before Heffernan signed. Owen Moxon has been a sub on a handful of occasions but probably mostly in games where Pickard hasn't featured.

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Re: Making Scottish Football Better

Post by bluedragon » Wed Nov 18, 2015 8:33 am

Skyline Drifter wrote: I am confused by Bluedragon's reference to a "locally trained player". He defined "Club Trained" and "Association Trained" but then threw in this third term when proposing a rule. Is it supposed to be interchangeable with one of the other two, and if so, which one? Or is this a third different definition?.
I am sorry I did not make that clear. "a locally trained player" is the overall term. Therefore a "locally trained player" can be EITHER a "Club trained player", i.e. one club, OR an "Association trained player", i.e. played for several clubs affiliated to the SFA.
Skyline Drifter wrote: I also don't particularly see why you would be prevented from adding players to make your squad up to 25 later just because you didn't fill it at the perceived "start of the season". I don't see why that should be blocked. If you want to start short handed and wait for better players to become available why shouldn't you?


Yes I can see your point from a practical point of view of managing a club. I was trying to see how clubs may be "encouraged" to fill gaps in their 25-man squads from local, young talent.
Skyline Drifter wrote: The SPFL already has the Development Loan rule which allows u20's to play 1st team on loan for another SPFL club whilst playing u20's football for their parent. Last season you could use that rule to do the same in the Juniors, South of Scotland League, Lowland League, etc but they've stopped that now. Only other SPFL clubs.


Do we know why that arrangement was stopped? Was it because it wasn't used or some other reason?

I found the information provided by Snuff and Skyline Drifter on squad composition quite fascinating. I was not quite sure what to expect but the range between clubs was interesting. Thanks for providing the information.

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Re: Making Scottish Football Better

Post by bluedragon » Wed Nov 18, 2015 9:15 am

On a similar theme I was interested to see an article on the BBC Website on how Iceland’s grass roots football has developed so that the national team is now playing in the Euros 2016.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/football/30012357

Like all good ideas it sounds so simple! In a harsh climate they ensure youngsters can play and be properly coached all the year around and with easy access to heated domes with 3G pitches in the worst of winter. With no professional clubs good players leave to play, develop and gain experience in other European countries and bring that together to have a good team at International level.

I was interested in the number of qualified coaches in Iceland:

UEFA B Licence 639
UEFA A Licence 196
UEFA Pro Licence 13

I was trying to find the comparable figures for Scotland but with no success. Can anyone help please? I seem to remember seeing a figure of around 2,500 UEFA B Licence coaches in England but cannot recall the source.

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Re: Making Scottish Football Better

Post by EastJunior » Wed Nov 18, 2015 11:17 am

There is of course no easy answer, but the club academy system does come in for a lot of criticism, and I do have sympathy for the view that we should get back to basics with kids playing with their friends at local boys clubs/community clubs with only the very best picked-off by the pro-clubs for their youth set-ups, and only at a certain age.

I don’t think pro-clubs should be able to sign anyone under the age of 15/16, let these kids play locally and enjoy their football. Of course, that would go hand-in-hand with dramatically increasing the number of qualified coaches there are in this country and that is where the SFA/Govt should be stepping in (if they don’t already do so) and pay for the first few levels of coaching courses for anyone who wants it. We also need to increase the number of 3G surfaces and more importantly, make them affordable to use. Better facilities makes kids keener to play the game and stick at it.

The other issue we have is that we don’t have the younger players going abroad to learn their trade such as the likes of Ryan Gauld. I’m not saying it’s the be all and end all, but the UK probably has among the least amount of players plying their trade overseas in UEFA, obviously wages have a lot to do with this. Coaches to rarely ventures overseas either, we are far too insular as far as football is concerned and is part of the reason we’re technically deficient when compared to so many nations.

I think now is the time to take the bull by the horns. If there’s to be another “blueprint”, let’s make it one which is actually going to bring significant change and improvement, otherwise we’ll be writing another one in 10 years time.

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Re: Making Scottish Football Better

Post by EastJunior » Wed Nov 18, 2015 11:22 am

On a final point, I’d also take issue with Strachans approach to the game.

Republic of Ireland have been described as the “Stoke City of International Football”, they know their limitations and play to their strengths and if it’s not pretty who cares, it gets results. whereas Strachan wants to implement a very technical style of play where we don’t really have the players to play it. We’re not Spain or Barcelona and never will be.

Witness the debacle in Tbilisi where we simply could not react to being behind. We have better players than Ireland but they play to their strengths and take 4 points off Germany.

I’d question why Strachan is being given what appears to be free reign by the SFA to change everything, when on the pitch we can’t make best use of the resources we have.

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Re: Making Scottish Football Better

Post by Skyline Drifter » Wed Nov 18, 2015 11:30 am

bluedragon wrote:
Skyline Drifter wrote: The SPFL already has the Development Loan rule which allows u20's to play 1st team on loan for another SPFL club whilst playing u20's football for their parent. Last season you could use that rule to do the same in the Juniors, South of Scotland League, Lowland League, etc but they've stopped that now. Only other SPFL clubs.


Do we know why that arrangement was stopped? Was it because it wasn't used or some other reason?

I found the information provided by Snuff and Skyline Drifter on squad composition quite fascinating. I was not quite sure what to expect but the range between clubs was interesting. Thanks for providing the information.
We used it a lot. We had about 5 or 6 players out on Development loan last season to various South of Scotland League and Lowland League sides. We wanted to do the same this year but weren't allowed to. We now have a couple of boys out on standard loan to South of Scotland sides instead so they can play first team there but they can't ALSO play u20's for us. I'm not sure why it was stopped. The advent of a Development Loan though is an SPFL rule and it may be the SFA have said they can only do them within their own league. Not sure. Last season it was brought in as a late afterthought when the season was already started and much of it was a thinking on the hop policy I think. Having had time to consider it properly over the first year and frame rules in the summer the option disappeared. Maybe it was the SPFL themselves who decided to keep it "in house". As I say, don't know.

I'm unconvinced by the whole "playing more Scots will make us better" argument. It's a chicken and egg thing. The reason cheap imports have come in to the Premiership from other countries is because the Scots aren't good enough. If we solve that problem the number of foreign players will dwindle naturally. I'm not convinced that the enforced inclusion of lesser abilitied Scots in any way addresses that though. I appreciate Snuff's figures show a couple of teams in particular as fielding a surprisingly low number of Scots but in general I don't think this makes a massive difference. As I pointed out further up, most clubs have a pretty strong group of Scots anyway, even Celtic. Forcing them to include half a dozen more who would almost certainly in the main be unused subs doesn't really strike me as providing any great benefit to our game. The times when our top sides were chock full of high earning foreign imported "stars" are pretty much in the past.

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Re: Making Scottish Football Better

Post by the hibLOG » Wed Nov 18, 2015 10:55 pm

bluedragon wrote:On a similar theme I was interested to see an article on the BBC Website on how Iceland’s grass roots football has developed so that the national team is now playing in the Euros 2016.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/football/30012357

Like all good ideas it sounds so simple! In a harsh climate they ensure youngsters can play and be properly coached all the year around and with easy access to heated domes with 3G pitches in the worst of winter. With no professional clubs good players leave to play, develop and gain experience in other European countries and bring that together to have a good team at International level.

I was interested in the number of qualified coaches in Iceland:

UEFA B Licence 639
UEFA A Licence 196
UEFA Pro Licence 13

I was trying to find the comparable figures for Scotland but with no success. Can anyone help please? I seem to remember seeing a figure of around 2,500 UEFA B Licence coaches in England but cannot recall the source.
I was going to chip in on this very point but you beat me to it. I couldn't find any detail on the number of B licence holders in Scotland, but this page has a handy graphic which shows A and Pro licence holders across Europe. Scotland has 554 A coaches, which gives a ratio of about one per 9-10,000 head of population. The equivalent Icelandic ratio is about 1:1,600. Of course the ratio of coaches to population doesn't correlate exactly with national success (Italy's seems low for example), but it probably has a significant effect on progress. It's more than just coincidence that Spain's emergence as the best team in the world followed a period when the whole coaching framework was overhauled and massively expanded.

There has been talk and talk of overhauling player development in Scotland for as long as I can remember and nothing positive ever seems to happen. Clubs have invested in academies but few players seem to emerge from them who are good enough to displace imports. The bottom line for me is that we just don't produce enough players with good enough skills, and Denis Law knocking down 'No ball games' signs in Aberdeen parks isn't going to change that. Nor is having home-grown quotas IMHO.
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