Penicuik Athletic boss Tony Begg warns players will quit game after Scottish FA ruling

Penicuik boss Tony Begg has warned that Scottish FA rules preventing clubs playing overage players at under-20s level could see talent lost to the game forever.

By Ian MacLean
Monday, 28th June 2021, 4:28 pm
Penicuik manager Tony Begg (right) says denying players the chance to play an extra year at under-20 level could see them lost to the game
Penicuik manager Tony Begg (right) says denying players the chance to play an extra year at under-20 level could see them lost to the game

A row erupted last week after the Scottish Lowland Development Football League, for under-20 players, were told by the Scottish FA that clubs would not be allowed to field under-21 players even though they had lost a full year to Covid.

Clubs had understood that a year’s grace would be offered to players born in 2001, but that now seems to have been overturned.

Although Penicuik Athletic are members of the SLDFL their squad’s age make-up means the effect on them is minimal. Similarly the ruling will have limited or no impact on Bonnyrigg Rose, Newtongrange Star and Whitehill Welfare.

But regardless of the effect on his own club, Begg has concerns over the massive, wider repercussions for other clubs and the game in general

He said “There are all those players born in 2001 who have nowhere to go. They've already lost a year of football so to stop them having another year at 20s I just don't understand the logic at all.

"These are the kids that there's a real danger they're going to be lost to the game. Throughout the pandemic that age group has been on a tipping point. It's a huge drop-out age in the game pre-Covid, never mind post-Covid when they've not kicked a ball for a year, and to put barriers in place to stop them playing just beggars belief.

"I don't know the thought process they've gone through to arrive at this decision.

"As a club we've been less impacted by it because we didn't have a lot of 2001s anyway and those that we did have we're going to send out on loan so that they can play some football.

"So from just talking about a club point of view we're not hugely impacted. But there are other clubs out there who have got seven or eight 2001s and if you take them away they're struggling for a team.

"Even if you can get them into the amateur game to keep them playing, you're still asking them to make a jump right away into adult football when they've lost a year of youth football already.

"You're going to put them into an environment where they're not going to enjoy it and they're going to be lost to the game because they're not ready for it.”

Begg continued: "Some clubs with a high number of kids, rightly or wrongly have been led to believe this wouldn't happen and they've maybe not done as wide recruitment as they thought they had to.

“Now suddenly with a few weeks to go before the season starts they're seven or eight players down and are going to have to start recruiting.

That's not right either, that just puts unnecessary stress on volunteer coaches."