Motherwell manager Graham Alexander has warned that Scottish clubs face a long and arduous process to sign players from abroad, amid the ongoing impacts of Brexit and Covid-19.
The UK’s breakaway from the European Union is impacting Scottish clubs in the transfer market. Motherwell managed to bring Finnish international Juhani Ojala to the Scottish Premiership from Danish side Vejle this summer, but only after a 10-day period of isolation and working through new legislation brought about by January’s Brexit.
Players coming into Scotland are now judged on a points-based system that takes into account various aspects of their careers, from success on the park to their financial earnings. Access to UK football is only granted to those who earn 15 points or more.
Work permits are given automatically if a player has played in a minimum of 70% of competitive matches over the last two seasons for a country ranked in the top 50 international teams. Players in this bracket are usually out of reach for clubs like Motherwell and appeals for an exemption must be made to the SFA.
A work visa is then needed and the government have to sign off on the transfer. Alexander says more headaches will appear in the coming windows: “It’s difficult. When we brought Juhani in, it took a bit of time to get him over the line. The deal was straightforward.
“But the process to get him into Scotland to play was long. There are other clubs going through this process. You can sign these players right up until the end of the transfer window and the process to get them here can go on after that.
“We were desperate to get working with Juhani and it put his progress back a bit. But we were patient and we got out player. There are a lot of new rules coming into place with the changes in society, for everyone. Without a shadow of a doubt it will be more challenging to sign players from outside the UK going forward.”
Motherwell are seeking their first league win of the season against Livingston this weekend, but the start of the season has been disrupted by injuries and players getting up to speed. A lack of friendlies did not provide ideal preparation, especially with players coming back from long-term absences. But Alexander and his staff are providing support.
He explained: “I don’t want to overegg the scenario that we’ve been through because I’m sure it’s been difficult for a lot of managers. But without a shadow of a doubt we’ve had a fragmented pre-season period together. Quite a few lads are coming back to playing from a long time out or not playing for their previous club.
“That takes time to get them up to speed. Ideally, in a beautiful world we’d have six to ten friendlies to get them up to speed before competitive action but that’s not the scenario. We’ve had to throw them in straight away because we know that they’re good players.
“We know the performances will improve but I still feel that the performances in the last three games have been close to winning games. I don’t understand the process of coming back after a year injury because it didn’t happen to me as a player.
“I don’t understand how you get back to full fitness after Covid because I’ve never had that. There’s loads of scenarios that my players are going through that I don’t fully understand but I need to give them the time and patience to overcome that. I know there are loads of good players in our squad.”
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