Gala Fairydean Rovers join chorus of protest over Under-21 football ruling

A Borders club chief has a branded a decision to deprive coronavirus-hit under-21 players of an extra year in the game as “an embarrassment to Scottish football”.

Thursday, 1st July 2021, 2:38 pm
Gala Fairydean Rovers, seen here in a 3-1 midweek win over Edinburgh City, are among many Scottish clubs dismayed by a decision which could rule their U21 players out of the game (picture by Bill McBurnie).

Gala Fairydean Rovers chairman Ryan Cass hit out at the Scottish Football Association after it refused permission for the Scottish Lowlands Development Football League, featuring a squad from the Galashiels club, to play over-age in its under-20 competition.

The league and clubs wanted dispensation to effectively increase the limit to under-21, giving an extra year to players sidelined last year by Covid-19 restrictions.

That plea has been rejected, however, threatening to throw 483 players across the country on the sport’s scrapheap.

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Clubs all over the country have criticised the ruling, and the league is urging SFA bosses to reconsider, with clubs affected forming a pressure group using the social media hashtag #LetThe483Play.

Cass said the decision would hinder the development of Scottish football and is totally unfair on the players concerned.

He added that Gala only have three youngsters in the affected age bracket but says that is three too many.

“How difficult is it to change the under-20s to under-21s?” he asked. “That’s the question I would like answered by the SFA.

“Secondly, there are about 500 players now not able to play. They’re in the situation of being starved of football for a year. Are they developed enough to play adult football, as in Lowland League and above – maybe a small percentage – or do they need that extra year to develop?

“For the whole of Scotland, it's a bit of an embarrassment, to be honest. We are stuck in these times and it’s just a shame that Scottish football can’t see it’s going to benefit them in the long run.

“Who made the decision and how can they disagree on it being under-21?”

Gala’s own youngsters are “devastated” by the decision, added Cass, although the club will support them.

“We have a duty of care,” he said. “We’ll make sure we try and keep them at Gala and, potentially, if they are not quite there for the Lowland League, maybe get them farmed out to a decent East of Scotland Football League club. We are going to try our best.”

Football reports – pages 54 & 55