Football clubs are exploiting young players by locking them into multi year contracts MSPs have warned.

The Scottish Parliament Public Petition committee wants an investigation into the treatment of young players and said a new law may be required to protect their rights.

Johann Lamont, Labour MSP for Glasgow and chair of the committee, said football’s governing bodies have not acted to deal with the issue despite a decade since the concerns were first raised.

The main point is players under 16 signing multi-year contacts with a club.

Ms Lamont said that the small print details are often overlooked by parents of young players when offered a contract.

She said: “There is a huge power imbalance between football clubs and the young people who aspire to play for them.

"Football is a passion for many young people and an offer to join a club's youth set-up may seem like a golden ticket.

"However, clubs trading in children's dreams should not be hiding devils in the detail, such as contractual small print which too many young people and their parents or carers may overlook until it is too late.”

The report recommends;

  • That players under the age of 16 should not be required to sign up to multi-year contracts, proposing to extend the one-year registration period for players aged 10-14 to include 15-year-olds;
  • That there should be an annual sampling of contracts to ensure that young players are being paid the minimum wage, however their club chooses to remunerate them;
  • That the Government works with the SFA and SPFL to fully evaluate the measures already introduced, as well as to investigate the recommended changes;
  • That it is incumbent on the Children and Young People’s Commissioner to maintain a clear focus on addressing the outstanding issues raised in this petition, as there appear to be breaches occurring in regard to young people’s human rights in football.

The issue was raised with the Scottish Parliament ten years ago but the committee said that despites some welcome measures the SFA has been too slow in acting and legislation may now be needed.

Ms Lamont added: “After 10 years, the committee believes that time is up.

"A number of the issues in this petition are not simply about football, but the protection and welfare of our young people.

"Children under the age of 16 should not be expected to sign exploitative multi-year contracts and young players should expect to be paid at least the minimum wage for their work."

The committee also said there had appeared to be breaches in the rules around children's human rights in football, which the Children and Young People's Commissioner should investigate.

The SFA said it has carried out “extensive work” while the SPFL said the report recognised the work done by clubs.

Ian Maxwell, Scottish FA chief executive, said: "The work undertaken by the wellbeing and protection team in providing professional support and guidance across all levels of the game has been extensive.

"It is also important to acknowledge failings. The well-documented lapses in PVG checking within the Scottish Youth FA was a sharp reminder of the need to have more robust policies and procedures in place for monitoring our affiliate bodies and the subsequent board directive issued has been successful in ensuring best practice across the recreational game in this regard.

"Scottish football is a tremendous source for good, with a social return on investment to the country estimated at over £1 billion in a recent UEFA-commissioned study.

"Its journey of improvement is ongoing but I am pleased that the committee has validated the tangible progress made during the span of the petition and the level of priority that this area now has within Scottish football."

Neil Doncaster, SPFL chief executive, added: "Today's report recognises the enormous amount of vital work carried out by all 42 SPFL clubs in close partnership with our colleagues at the Scottish FA.

Glasgow Times:

"As a sport which harnesses and nurtures the passions of hundreds of thousands of young people throughout Scotland, football rightly places an overwhelming priority on ensuring they can play and learn in a safe and supportive environment."