Public Petitions Committee
Meeting date: Tuesday, November 26, 2013
Agenda: Decision on Taking Business in Private, New Petition, Current Petition, New Petition, Current Petition, New Petition, Current Petitions
- Decision on Taking Business in Private
- New Petition
- Current Petition
- New Petition
- Current Petition
- New Petition
- Current Petitions
Youth Football (PE1319)
I refer members to my entry in the register of members’ interests—I am a trustee of Inverness Caledonian Thistle Football Club. In addition, I have received information from Iain Gray and Johann Lamont, who have an interest in the petition. A number of members have a particular interest in the football side of the petition, but I think that, in sum, the petition is about the effective employment of young people. William Smith and Scott Robertson have done a lot of good work on the issue.
Before we consider our next steps in dealing with the petition, I invite members’ views on the options for action.
Does anyone want to suggest some possible ways forward on the petition?
Scotland’s Commissioner for Children and Young People, Tam Baillie, has done a lot of work on the issue and has asked to be kept informed of the petition’s progress. I think that he gave evidence to the committee on the petition in the previous session of Parliament.
Members will know that Scottish football has been reorganised. The chief executive of the Scottish Professional Football League, which is one of the key organisations in Scottish football, is Neil Doncaster, who I understand is now also a board member of the Association of European Professional Football Leagues, which plays an important role.
I think that we should invite some of the key players in Scottish football and the children’s commissioner to speak to us about the petition, which goes much wider than football and raises issues to do with the European convention on human rights, employment and fair movement of trade. The other side of the coin is that we all understand that it is vital to develop and build up facilities for youth football and that the clubs that invest in that need to get some return. We must look at both sides. I suggest that we invite some of the key players to come along to the committee. It has been suggested that we should ask Malcolm MacGregor, who is a well-known advocate who has done a lot of work on sport, to attend. It is up to committee members to decide whether they feel that that is an appropriate response. I have quite strong views on that, but I appreciate that members might have different views.
I agree that we should get some meaningful advice on the way forward from those who are involved. I certainly think that those who administer Scottish football should be invited along to give information.
I omitted to mention that it has been suggested that we should invite Andrew McKinlay, who wrote back to us, who is the director of governance and regulation at the Scottish Football Association, as he has a lot of experience in this area.
I am concerned about some of the sums of money that are changing hands. As Mr Brodie said, it is not the young people themselves—who, in many respects, are still children—who are being reimbursed. Their parents are being paid to tie or indenture them to a club. When we discussed the petition previously, we discovered that some young people are losing out on a football career because they cannot play for a school team or a local youth team, as the club will not let them do that.
We should wait until after January 2014 to find out what suggestions the SPFL makes before we invite the individuals whom the convener named to a round-table discussion on the future of youth football in Scotland and how the clubs are restricting the ability of young players to play football.
We have just talked about openness and transparency. It would therefore be slightly disingenuous not to look at the issues raised in the SPL’s letter from earlier this year, which states:
“You seem to be advocating a system whereby clubs would be free to register young players without the payment of any training contribution.”
I want to understand what that training contribution is for. Given the sums of money that I have heard of, it must be some training.
As John Wilson mentioned, it would be a much better idea to wait until after January 2014, when we will have received the report, before we hold a round table. We need to have and benefit from that round-table experience in which knowledge and practice can be shared. We must be educated on the matter before we make any decision on the petition.
Members indicated agreement.
Thank you. The committee’s view is clear. We will go ahead and get that actioned as soon as the January meeting takes place.