Agreement has been reached to stop the introduction of regulations that would have restricted the ability of Scottish clubs to sign players from outside the UK, just weeks before the opening of the January transfer window.
The UK’s decision to leave the European Union promoted a shake-up to the system for employment visas, drastically changing the requirements for players wanting to move to the Scottish leagues.
EU players have previously moved to Scottish clubs without needing complicated paperwork, while the small number of non-EU arrivals obtained Governing Body Endorsements via the Scottish FA that rubber-stamped their permission to sign for Premiership teams.
An Exceptions Panel ruled on cases where overseas players did not meet the strict requirements for an endorsement, often being a number of international appearances. Scottish clubs used that system extensively and though it was allowed to continue during the summer transfer window, the UK government had advised that it would be stopped altogether.
The SPFL and Scottish FA lobbied the government to find a solution before damaging restrictions were place on which players clubs would be able to recruit.
The government has now agreed that the system will remain on a permanent basis, allowing players’ merits to be judged on a case-by-case basis where they don’t meet the points required by the Home Office.
SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster said: “Given the significant number of overseas players who enhance our league, and Scotland’s relatively small size in comparison to other nations, it was absolutely imperative that we were able to convince the UK Government to maintain the Exemptions Panel.
“Failure to do so would have dramatically compromised the competitiveness of Scottish clubs, particularly when playing in European competitions, and it is fantastic news for our game that we have managed to secure such a crucial agreement with the UK Government.
“It is no exaggeration to say that this was one of the most pivotal issues for our clubs and I am absolutely delighted that we have managed to secure this ongoing arrangement. The alternative did not bear thinking about – and would have severely restricted the number of marquee players coming into our game, with disastrous financial consequences.”
“The retention of the Exceptions Panel is hugely significant achievement for Scottish football and also protects the interests of the many Scottish clubs whose business model depends on the import, development and onward sale of overseas players.”