Taylor fears rule change may harm Scotland

SFA chief executive concerned new laws could deprive national team of young talent
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The Independent Football

David Taylor, the chief executive of the Scottish Football Association, is worried that changes to the international eligibility rules could work against Scotland's national team.

The chief executives of the four home nations are due to meet in London on 28 February to discuss changes to the eligibility rules introduced by Fifa, the game's world governing body.

These would enable British nationals to play for one UK team despite having already played for another at Under-21 level or below and foreign nationals to make the same choice on completion of a required two-year residency period to qualify for a UK passport.

At the moment, the four nations operate under their own agreement, which means UK players can play for a home nation without having been born there only if their bloodline can be traced to either their parents or grandparents. UK nationals who were born outside the British Isles can already plump for the home nation of their choice.

Taylor stopped short of making an unequivocal statement that the SFA would block plans to scrap the existing British agreement.

But he insisted that he was well aware of the need to protect Scotland's right to play international football in times when other nations are questioning their separate status.

"At the moment we have the British agreement," he said. We cannot change it unilaterally. We have got to discuss it with our colleagues.

"The residency [issue] is a double-edged sword. There may be players like Alan Thompson who become eligible but then again the Darren Fletchers of this world, or any of our best kids who go down to the academies in England, would be immediately available to play for England and might be lost to Scotland.

"We have got to watch that we don't end up with a free-for-all, with all four home countries trying to get their hands on the best players.

"We have to be careful about why we exist as a separate country because otherwise people will say 'this is a mess, why don't we just have a UK football team?'

"We have a separate identity to protect, which is enshrined in the whole history of the game. We are the second-oldest football association in the world and we have special privileges, as Fifa would call them, in that we compete in all competitions as separate countries.

"So we need to make sure we don't lose sight of the fact that our identity is particularly important to us. We have to be careful about how far we go with these rules. I don't think a free-for-all is in the best interests of Scotland. If other countries break ranks and say they will just go by the Fifa rules we than become very purist in our approach, but maybe that is what we have to do."

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