Ballantyne blasts state of youth football

South Scotland MSP Michelle Ballantyne has criticised the system of youth football in Scotland, and has called upon the SFA, SPFL and others to implement real change.

Speaking in the Scottish Parliament, in her capacity as a member of the Public Petitions Committee, Mrs. Ballantyne highlighted the “commercialisation of the game” and condemned what she described as young people being “treated like commodities”.

The Committee has heard evidence in recent sessions of children being paid £1 per week by club academies; children as young as 10 signing long-term, inflexible deals which prevent them moving on to a new club or focusing on their education; and of a clear imbalance of power between club and player.

Mrs. Ballantyne has demanded the governing bodies in Scottish football do more to ensure equity and realistic expectations among young players

Michelle Ballantyne MSP, Shadow Minister for Childcare and Early Years, said:

“I understand completely the need to incentivise clubs to invest in the next generation, but children are being tied to onerous arrangements, and it is clear that there is a prevailing imbalance of power between club and child.

It is clear from the abundance of contracts and compensation that football clubs and youth academies are casting their net far too wide in order to reap the financial benefits from as many young players as possible. When only 4% of so-called “elite” players go onto a professional career, it is evident that we are erecting a house of cards of speculation and false hope.

“For many, the dream will not be realised. For many, the dream will end in disillusionment with a sport they once loved.

“The youth game is enveloped by profit-orientation at the club level, and intransigence at the association level. It’s time to move away from diamond prospecting and return to a focus on kids playing the game, enjoying it for what it is.

“Because if we continue down this path of putting balance sheets ahead of boys’ clubs, the ‘beautiful game’ will become very ugly indeed.”