BREXIT could seriously impact on Scottish football if freedom of movement of players is curtailed, according to a former minister for Europe who is now one of the country’s top chairmen.
Doug Henderson, served in Tony Blair’s government and is chairman of Scottish Championship side Falkirk FC.
He fears that there may soon be fewer EU nationals playing in the Scottish leagues if there is a to be a hard Brexit.
Rangers handed a debut to young left-back Myles Beerman during the week, who represents the Maltese national side but Henderson fears this may soon stop happening as a result of Brexit.
He said: “If there is a hard Brexit, the number of foreign players could be curtailed and EU nationals may find it less attractive to come.
“With tougher regulations and work permits on football immigration from Europe, there is also every likelihood that the gap between top-level clubs and the rest would be extended.
“In Scotland, Celtic – and perhaps Rangers in the future – would widen the gap between their economic power and the rest of Scottish football.”
Fraser Wishart, chief executive of PFA Scotland, which represents footballers in the country, has also raised his concerns.
He said: “Change is coming and our priority is to do our utmost to make sure the interests and contracts of players from the EU are protected.
“As a players’ union, we have a long history of involvement in helping craft the rules governing issues like work permits for foreign players.
“We must engage with the Home Office to influence any changes that are brought forward.”
There are also concerns that the falling value of the pound may make it even harder for clubs in Scotland to sign the best up and coming young talent.
Andy Nolan, of law firm Brodies LLP, said: “Players from the EU might ultimately be subject to the same immigration rules that apply to non-EU citizens.
“Some English Premier League clubs have lobbied that footballers from the EU be subject to special rules making them exempt from post-Brexit immigration controls.
“UK clubs will need to consider if they want to argue for looser rules to streamline procedures for sourcing EU migrant players.
“If they don’t, they may face more competition from clubs in the EU who will face fewer barriers to signing talented players.”
However, Henderson concedes it might not all be doom and gloom and there may be an upside to Brexit.
He said: “The new arrangements might allow more home-based players the opportunity to play at a higher level.
“This could help to bolster the international performance of the four home countries within the UK.”