Hearts and Hibs still able to recruit overseas players after visa U-turn

The recruitment of overseas players for Hearts, Hibs and the Old Firm will be unaffected by Brexit – after the UK government agreed to continue football’s fast-track work permit system on a ‘permanent basis’.

Monday, 6th December 2021, 6:56 pm
Australian and Swedish midfielders Cammy Devlin of Hearts and Melker Hallberg of Hibs were recruited from overseas by the Capital clubs
Australian and Swedish midfielders Cammy Devlin of Hearts and Melker Hallberg of Hibs were recruited from overseas by the Capital clubs

Post Brexit, significant changes to the system of employment visas for workers have been introduced.

The SPFL and the Scottish FA had been notified that the ‘exceptions panel’ used by clubs to fast-track players who don’t meet the strict criteria of the points-based system would be discontinued after the summer 2021 transfer window.

However, after talks with the UK government, the system is now set to be maintained.

SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster has described it a “pivotal issue” for Scottish clubs that would have had “disastrous financial consequences”, compromising the competitiveness of Rangers, Celtic and other Scottish clubs in Europe.

Historically, SPFL clubs have been hugely reliant on the ‘exceptions panel’, which provides a discretionary route for clubs to get a work permit.

Doncaster said: “Given the significant number of overseas players who enhance our league, and Scotland’s relatively small size in comparison to other nations, it was absolutely imperative that we were able to convince the UK Government to maintain the Exemptions Panel.

“Failure to do so would have dramatically compromised the competitiveness of Scottish clubs, particularly when playing in European competitions, and it is fantastic news for our game that we have managed to secure such a crucial agreement with the UK Government.

“It is no exaggeration to say that this was one of the most pivotal issues for our clubs and I am absolutely delighted that we have managed to secure this ongoing arrangement. The alternative did not bear thinking about – and would have severely restricted the number of marquee players coming into our game, with disastrous financial consequences.”

The UK Government has agreed to the Exceptions Panel continuing “on a permanent basis”, including during the forthcoming January transfer window.

Neil Doncaster added: “The retention of the Exceptions Panel is hugely significant achievement for Scottish football and also protects the interests of the many Scottish clubs whose business model depends on the import, development and onward sale of overseas players.”