Scottish Premiership: How Brexit changed the way Scottish clubs do deals


Over the past 12 months, almost every Scottish Premiership team has had to get a work permit for a player.

It used to be that European Union passport holders could come here and join a club as easily as a local player from within Scotland. They could agree on a Wednesday, arrive on a Thursday, train Friday, and make their debut on Saturday. No hassle.

Brexit has put an end to that. Clubs are still signing from Europe, of course, but it is no longer easier than recruitment from anywhere else in the world. As a result, horizons at Scottish clubs are broadening.

But how does it work? What direction might it go next? And who are the players arriving in our game?

So how do clubs get work permits?

Any non-British player signing will first be measured on a Home Office system where points are awarded for things such as international appearances, how successful their existing club is, and how much they will be paid.

To be granted a permit automatically, they have to hit 15 points.

But the majority of players coming to the Premiership won’t, so a case for a Governing Body Exemption has to be put to a six-strong panel, generally made up of former coaches, managers and players as well as administrators and independent advisors.

The will re-examine all the factors in the points assessment but, after a presentation, will also ask why the club have signed him, the impact on Scottish players and the domestic game.

It’s not an easy process but now it doesn’t matter if you’re from Ghana, Germany or Guam. The reams and reams of paperwork are the same for all. As a result, clubs are looking outside their usual markets.

Which markets could be tapped by Scottish clubs?

Last summer, Hearts signed midfielder Cammy Devlin from Newcastle Jets. He proved such a success that, this year, they have gone back to Australia to sign right wing-back Nathaniel Atkinson and left-sided centre back Kye Rowles.

Meanwhile Celtic, emboldened by Ange Postecoglu’s knowledge of the Japanese J-League, signed Kyogo Furuhashi, Daizen Maeda, Reo Hatate and Yosuke Ideguchi.

Even Ross County took the leap to sign from the newly-formed Canadian Premier League, bringing in athletic midfielder Victor Loturi from Cavalry FC and William Akio from Valour. Don’t let the clip below fool you… the boy is a talent.

So what do deals like those tell us about how things are changing? And what countries might be next?

Might Dundee United, for example, focus on the untapped and potentially game-changing African markets? They have already dipped the toe in the water with 18-year-old Ghanaian Matthew Cudjoe, and currently have two young Ugandans – Sadat Aniku and Enock Walusimbi – on trial.

And what of South America? Alfredo Morelos arrived at Rangers from Colombia via HJK Helsinki, but could Scottish clubs become that stepping stone themselves? With the biggest market in the football world south of the border, why does Scotland not try to become a breeding ground for English clubs, with their more stringent work permit rules?

So not only could Premiership clubs improve the quality of their squads, but they also have the chance to make financial gain from the inability of English clubs to sign these types of players directly.

Keanu Baccus, St Mirren: Signed from Western Sydney Wanderers, he is a technically solid player who brings enthusiasm and energy. The 24-year-old provides a base to build from and can be effective in both a two or three-man midfield. Will he be able to add the quality in possession and energy St Mirren were lacking last season?

Victor Loturi, Ross County: He has come through the college system in Canada, and is capable of being both a ball-winner and link player in midfield. Another with great energy, might he provide some of the playmaking and industry lost with the departure of Harry Paton?

Theo Bair, St Johnstone: Signed from Vancouver Whitecaps in MLS in January, Bair has had to wait for his opportunity. The 6ft 4in striker isn’t a typical big man, preferring to play in open space rather than with his back to goal, but he holds the ball in well and runs the channels. Will he be St Johnstone’s first double figure scorer since Danny Swanson in 2017?

Bojan Miovski, Aberdeen: Signed from MTK Budapest, the North Macedonian international comes with an impressive record of 20 goals and 27 assists in only 102 games. Can he and Cristian Ramirez strike up an effective partnership?

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