Football clubs slammed for ‘Dickensian’ contracts

Hearts youth team at Tynecastle
Hearts youth team at Tynecastle
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The “Dickensian” practice of holding children on contracts at football clubs against their own or their parents’ will has been criticised by MSPs.

Families have gone to court to free their children from professional football club contracts, youth football campaigners The Real Grassroots told Holyrood’s Public Petitions Committee.

John Murray, who has been involved in running the youth academy at Heart of Midlothian FC, said he lets children go if their family circumstances change, but that other clubs have different principles.

The Scottish Football Association said clubs must safeguard their investment, particularly when money has been spent in youth development, but said they can intervene if clubs are found to be “abusing their position”.

But Real Grassroots founder Willie Smith said there are two cases pending where parents have been forced to go to court.

SNP MSP Chic Brodie said “business speculation” on young people was “Dickensian”, while SNP colleague Angus MacDonald said it was “crazy” to let young players sit idle for financial reasons.