Progress too slow on rights for youth footballers, MSPs claim

Scottish Parliament committee concerned about young players being stuck in exploitative contracts.

Progress too slow on rights for youth footballers, MSPs claim Pixabay

Progress on improving rights for young footballers has been too slow and external regulation may be needed, MSPs have warned football authorities.

A Scottish Parliament committee is concerned about young players being stuck in exploitative contracts which do not pay them fairly.

The issue was first raised in a petition to the Scottish Parliament 10 years ago but the Public Petitions Committee said changes brought in by the SFA and SPFL have not solved the problem.

The committee wants to ensure under-16s are not required to sign multi-year contracts, along with monitoring to ensure all are receiving the minimum wage.

Convener Johann Lamont MSP said: “There is a huge power imbalance between football clubs and the young people who aspire to play for them.

“Football is a passion for many young people and an offer to join a club’s youth set-up may seem like a golden ticket.

“However, clubs trading in children’s dreams should not be hiding devils in the detail, such as contractual small print which too many young people and their parents or carers may overlook until it is too late.

“The committee welcomes some of the measures introduced by the SFA since our consideration of this petition began, but this progress has been painfully slow. After 10 years, the committee believes that time is up.

“A number of the issues in this petition are not simply about football, but the protection and welfare of our young people.

“Children under the age of 16 should not be expected to sign exploitative multi-year contracts and young players should expect to be paid at least the minimum wage for their work.”

A report released on Monday says that regulation or new legislation might be the only way forward.

The committee also said there had appeared to be breaches in the rules around children’s human rights in football, which the Children and Young People’s Commissioner should investigate.

Ms Lamont added: “We are also concerned that the current Children and Young People’s Commissioner is not prioritising this petition in his office’s work, despite agreeing with his predecessor that issues remain unresolved.

“We believe that the commissioner’s office still has a critical role to play in ensuring the rights of children involved in youth football are not overlooked.”