Work Permits for Footballers in Scotland and England – a Look Back to 1999
With at the end a comment about Rangers’ Financial power as an added bonus!
I was looking through the Parliament website, for reasons which now escape me, and came across some entries from 1999 where Hansard reported, as appendices to the Report of the Select Committee on Employment and Education, decisions made regarding work permits for some players.
These cases concerned players who did not satisfy the “automatic” criteria for a work permit, namely having played in a sufficiently high percentage of the player’s country’s internationals over the last two years.
There were at the time two panels, one for England and one for Scotland.
They were made up as follows, the descriptions being those contained in the Report:-
Football Work Permit Review Panel Members (England)
JIMMY ARMFIELD – Long playing career mainly with Blackpool and England in the 1940’s and 1950’s. Now radio commentator and coaching adviser to England Youth Team.
FRANK CLARK – Long playing career with Newcastle United and Nottingham Forest in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Managed Leyton Orient, Nottingham Forest and Manchester City.
BRIAN GLANVILLE – Long time respected sports journalist, currently writing for the Sunday Times. Specialises in football.
JIMMY HILL – Respected football pundit, worked mainly for the BBC. Played for Fulham in the 1950’s. Has been involved in the game at all levels and is a former Chairman of the Professional Footballers Association.
DAVID LACEY – Respected sports journalist, currently with the Guardian newspaper.
ALAN MULLERY – Long playing career with Tottenham Hotspur, Fulham and England. Managed successful Brighton & Hove Albion team. Currently football pundit on Sky TV.
DENNIS SMITH – Long playing career in 1970’s mainly with Stoke City. Managed Sunderland and Stoke City.
DR ROGAN TAYLOR – Director of Football Research Unit, University of Liverpool.
MIKE WALKER – Successful manager of Norwich City in 1980’s. Also managed Everton.
Football Work Permit Review Panel Members (Scotland)
EAMMON BANNON – Long playing career with Dundee United. Also played for Hearts and Chelsea. Now a member of Sport Scotland (Scottish Sports Council).
BOB CRAMPSEY – Respected football commentator and journalist with a number of newspapers in Scotland.
TOMMY MCLEAN – Played for Glasgow Rangers, also managed Hearts and Motherwell.
BILLY MCNEIL (sic) – Long and successful playing career with Glasgow Celtic and Scotland. Managed Aberdeen, Aston Villa, Clyde and Manchester City.
WILLIE MILLER – Long playing career with Aberdeen and Scotland. Also managed Aberdeen. Now a TV pundit.
PAT STANTON – Long and successful playing career with Glasgow Celtic and Hibernian.
ERNIE WALKER CBE – One time Secretary of the Scottish Football Association, currently Chairman of the Scottish Stadia Committee and active within UEFA (the European governing body of football).
The last time I saw such an august list of football experts, I was looking at the make up of the Pools Panel!
It is interesting that Hansard fails to mention that Billy McNeill managed Celtic, and I find it a bit sad that Mike Walker is listed as a “successful manager of Norwich. Also managed Everton.” That was NOT successful.
In a nostalgic vein, I had about eight of the above players on football cards when I was but a wee boy.
And I must mention that Mr Crampsey was my head teacher at High School, although one always felt he was sitting in his office finalising his latest “Now You Know” column for the Evening Times “Pink Un”. All in all though, Mr Crampsey was a great head teacher, and an even better writer, broadcaster and raconteur.
How well did the “expert panels” do in assessing how players would perform.
Let’s start with one where the Panel made absolutely no mistake.
The Panel consisted of Messrs Bannon, Crampsey and Miller, together with Iain Blair of the SPL, Frank Coulson of the SFA, and Tony Higgins of the Scottish Professional Footballers Association.
“Having considered the oral, written and video evidence the Panel were unanimously in favour of recommending to the Minister that a work permit be issued to Celtic Football Club for Stilian Petrov. In particular, they were persuaded that Mr Petrov is a player of the highest calibre and that view was reinforced by the testimonials provided by the coaches of the English and Scottish national football teams.”
Spot on assessment there. Stilian Petrov has gone on to distinguished careers in Scotland and England. I am sure all readers would wish him well in his battle now with cancer.
Moving on to another Celtic player, the success rate of the Panel drops. This is also the answer to the question posed at the top of the page. I bring you the one and the only…
The “guilty men” who decided on Rafael’s case were Pat Stanton and Bob Crampsey, from the panel of experts. In addition we had Alex Taylor of the SPFA, Iain Blair of the SPL and Peter Donald of the SFL. Willie Miller was a late call off through illness.
“The Panel considered a wide range of evidence from the Club including a detailed written submission and a testimonial from the Brazilian National Coach.
The Panel watched a video supplied by Celtic Football Club detailing the player’s technical ability and took oral evidence from Kenny Dalgleish (sic), Director of Football and Jim Hone, a Club Director.
After watching the video the Panel were of the opinion that Rafael was a high quality player with a commanding presence, a good passer of the ball who could play equally well with either foot.
Taking evidence from the Club, the Panel asked the Celtic Manager to explain the background to the Club’s efforts in securing Rafael’s services. Mr Dalgleish explained that Rafael would be the first Brazilian, the highest rated team in the world, to play in Scotland. This was seen as a major coup for the Club. He also stated that the player was keen to play for Celtic despite interest shown from a number of major European Clubs such as Bayern Munich, Juventus and Fiorentina. Rafael is seeking to establish himself as a regular in Brazil’s National team prior to the next World Cup and sees the exposure he will get in Scotland as a major factor in these plans. Mr Dalgleish and Mr Hone then went on to explain in detail Celtic’s youth policy, in particular the difficulties their Youth Academy was having in attracting and retaining young players with the qualities necessary to make a career in Professional Football at the highest level. Celtic, even though they are a major force in Scotland, cannot compete with Clubs in England who have similar Youth Academies. This is a great concern to the Club. They need to be able to nurture home grown talent as it is not financially viable to continue to compete for players such as Rafael. Despite these efforts it was noted that of the current Celtic squad of players only one had come through the Academy. The Club hoped that buying top quality international players in the short term would allow the Club to establish a position as a force in European Football which would then encourage youngsters to the Club. The Club also explained that Rafael had German ancestry and had applied for a German passport which was expected to be issued within the next six months.
After considering all of the evidence the Panel unanimously agreed that Rafael was a player of the highest calibre and would make a significant contribution to the Scottish game. Accordingly, they recommended that a work permit be issued.”
Rafael did make a major contribution to Scottish football, but as the punchline to a joke rather than as a player!
It is also very strong evidence that one can prove almost anything with video tape carefully edited!
It is of note that, in 1999, Celtic were hoping that some top quality purchases would act to prime the pump of their Youth Academy. There was an acknowledgement that Celtic could not compete with top English teams. There was a recognised need to bring on home grown players, a goal which it is fair to say has been well advanced over recent years.
However, I suspect that there are some of my Celtic supporting pals who would view the panel’s decision as proof of Scottish football’s bias against Celtic! After all, giving him a permit caused more damage than refusing him!
Did he ever get his German passport? Did it matter?
Then, to complete the Celtic trifecta, we turn to a third player, although he did not need the work permit to be granted for his Celtic stint, but instead for the team he played for prior to that – Oswaldo Giraldo Junior, or as he is more commonly known…
This was Juninho’s return to Middlesbrough. He needed a permit because injury had prevented him making the required international appearances.
As this was an English application, the English Panel sat. The experts were Messrs Clark and Walker, and Dr Taylor. There were officials from the EPL and FA and Gordon Taylor of the PFA was there too.
“The Panel took oral evidence from Bryan Robson, First Team Manager and Keith Lamb, Club Chief Executive. The written evidence consisted of the player’s international record, his performance when he was previously a work permit player, the fact that he was the Carling Premier League player of the year in 1996-97 and medical reasons why the player had not been able to meet the international playing criteria.
The Panel were well acquainted with the player’s ability from his previous spell as a work permit holder. He is, in their opinion, a player of superb skill and would be a tremendous asset to the domestic game. There were various reasons as to why he moved to Spain, particularly that in order to remain in the international squad he had been advised that a move abroad was essential. However, he suffered a serious injury, breaking his ankle, and subsequently was judged not fit enough to make the Brazilian World Cup squad.
Mr Robson explained that Juninho was a world class player and would bring charisma and flair to the English game and anyone who had seen him play before when he was at Middlesbrough would know he would make a very significant contribution to the English game. He said that the Club had signed the player on a contract until June 2000, not on loan, but with a get out clause should he for any reason not make the grade. If the Club exercised their right to keep him beyond June 2000 they would probably be paying a transfer fee in the region of £8 million.
The Panel were unanimous in their opinion that Juninho was clearly a player of the highest calibre, would make a significant contribution to the English game and that a work permit should be issued to Middlesbrough Football Club.”
Unfortunately however Juninho, possibly as a result of his injuries, never returned to the heights he had reached before, and after a couple of years left the North East for Celtic, where he seems to hold the distinction of being the only Celtic player with an EBT! Although this was quickly cancelled and, we are led to believe, back taxes due paid, all at the instance of Brian Quinn.
Moving to another mercurial player in England, we have…
He possibly has the record for the most support for his application. Derby County were able to marshal a wide range of witnesses and evidence.
“There were testimonials from a significant number of people in the game, including Sir Alex Ferguson, Manager of Manchester United and Peter Taylor, Manager of England’s Under 21 team. There were also representations in support of the application from the Rt Hon Margaret Beckett, MP for Derby South and Alan Keen MP, Vice Chairman of the All Party Sports Group in the House of Commons. The Panel also took oral evidence from Keith Loring, Chief Executive of the Club, Jim Smith, Team Manager and Keith Pearson, Club Secretary.
The Panel were well acquainted with the player’s ability from his previous spell as a work permit holder. He is, in their opinion, a player of superb skill and would be a tremendous asset to the domestic game. Kinkladze’s move to Ajax of Amsterdam had been something of a disaster for him personally. He had been asked by Ajax to play out of position so his effectiveness was lessened. This led to him not being selected on a regular basis. This in turn meant he was then unable to command a regular place in the Georgian national team when previously he had been a regular and a star name within that team. He had also suffered a number of injuries which limited his appearances for both Ajax and Georgia. This inactivity had raised doubts about his current fitness levels which could have a bearing on the impact he would be able to make in England should his appeal be successful.
Mr Smith explained that doubts over Kinkladze’s overall fitness were ill founded although he was short of match fitness and he wanted to see how far his recovery had progressed before making the signing a permanent one. Derby County’s medical team had examined him fully and declared him fit. Indeed Mr Smith declared that should permission be granted Kinkladze would be in the team squad for their Premiership game this Sunday. He stated that Kinkladze was a world class player whose ability to excite crowds would be a massive boost to the English game. In his previous time in England Kinkladze had become something of a “cult” figure with English crowds due to his extraordinary skills and ability to turn a game in an instant. His previous record in England was testament to the significant contribution he would make to the English game. He said that the Club had signed the player on loan to the end of the season but they had first option to sign him from Ajax for £3 million should the move be successful. Mr Smith was confident that he would be able to judge whether a permanent move was possible in a short time and therefore hoped to offer Kinkladze a permanent contract well before the end of the season. He also said that the Georgian coach had stated that Kinkladze would be an automatic choice for the national team once he has established himself with Derby County.
Derby also indicated that Kinkladze was due to marry an English national next month which would remove the need for any further work permit applications should this be the case. The Panel were unanimous in their opinion that Kinkladze was clearly a player of the highest calibre, would make a significant contribution to the English game and that a work permit should be issued to Derby County Football Club.”
As with Juninho, Kinkladze’s best years were behind him. Jim Smith, the Derby manager, wanted him gone after a couple pof low key years to cut wages, but “kinky” could not be moved. Once again the work permit panel seemed to be blinded by past glories.
I also wonder, though the report does not give more information, about the footballing knowledge of Margaret Beckett MP and Alan Keen MP. When the equivalent Panel sits now, might we expect politicians to be lining up to support work permit applications? With the greatest of respect to them, what would an MP’s endorsement add to an assessment of a footballer’s abilities – or is it seen as good PR to support the local team? The latter question is so obvious, I am not really sure why I wrote it!
Finally in this summary, we come to…
The experts were Pat Stanton, Willie Miller, and Billy McNeill. Fraser Wishart of the SPFA, Iain Blair of the SPL and Frank Coulson of the SFA joined in.
“The Panel considered a wide range of evidence from the Club including a detailed written submission, testimonials from Walter Smith, manager of Everton Football Club, Nicolas Leoz of the Paraguayan Football Association and Andres Zaldivar Larrain, President of the Republic of Chile. The Club also provided correspondence from a supporter of Glasgow Rangers.
The Panel watched a video supplied by Glasgow Rangers Football Club highlighting goals Sebastian Rozental scored during the 1999 Chilean football season. The Panel also took oral evidence from Campbell Ogilvie, Club Secretary/Director, Dick Advocaat, Team Manager and Grant Downie the Club Physiotherapist.
This application concerned a player who had been a work permit holder previously from 1996 to November 1998. Unfortunately, he suffered a career threatening knee injury which meant that he was unable to play. The injury was suffered in January 1997 and was so severe that an artificial graft had to be applied to the ligament to enable the player to resume his career. Regrettably, an infection to the bone meant that the recovery was dramatically extended.
The Panel were unanimous in their opinion that the video evidence, medical evidence and Mr Advocaat’s expert testimony conclusively demonstrated that the player had fully regained his fitness and indeed appeared to show that his ability had improved since 1996. Rozental has scored 22 goals in 27 games during the 1999 Chilean league season. He is still only 23 and the panel were convinced that there was no doubt he would be a major addition to the Scottish game.
Mr Advocaat confirmed that although he had not originally signed Rozental for Rangers he had tracked the player when he was previously manager of PSV Eindhoven but was unable to compete financially with Rangers. He had seen Rozental in training camp in Florida recently and was completely satisfied that the player had fully recovered from the injury. He confirmed that if the appeal was successful the player would be put into the first team squad immediately. The Panel also noted that Rozental had been restored to the Chilean National squad for games against the USA, Costa Rica and Guatemala during the next week, another indication of proof of his international ability. Chile are regarded as a powerful force in South American football. The team includes a number of World Class players and it was thought a measure of Mr Rozental’s ability that he could command a place in such a squad of players.
The Panel were unanimous in their opinion that Rozental was clearly a player of the highest quality and would make an immediate and significant impact on the Scottish game. They therefore recommended that a work permit be issued.”
I take back what I said above about Kinkladze. Rozental had the President of Chile supporting his application!
It is good to see the Everton manager chipping in as well – ah, Walter Smith! The panel also considered correspondence from a Rangers supporter. That is left in, I am sure, as a tease. If fans realised that they could provide input to a work permit decision, I imagine that some teams could bombard the Panel with letters of support, if needed.
What could the supporter have said? What credibility would have been needed? Now fans could say that they had watched the player on Youtube and he was great!
As the topic of Rangers finances is much in the news just now, it is interesting that Mr Advocaat stated that he had wanted to sign Rozental for PSV Eindhoven, “but was unable to compete financially with Rangers”! Bearing in mind the success of PSV, and some of the players, such as Stam, van Nistelroy, Numan, Cocu, Zenden and van Bommel, who played there at or around that time, it is a testament to Sir David Murray’s generosity to his managers that Rangers finances so outweighed those of PSV.
As far as Rozental’s time in Scotland went, injury prevented him fulfilling his promise. He scored three goals in 17 games over the three years he was here.
So what does this tell us?
It confirms that (a) past performance is no guarantee of future success (b) injuries happen to footballers and that they can rarely be predicted (c) the expert Panel could get some cases spot on, as with Stilian Petrov but (d) they could make some huge errors, as with Rafael.
Maybe one of the pundits who served on the Panel could explain how they decided these cases? It would be good to hear how much weight was added to the case by the letter from the President of Chile, for example!
Of note for those interested in Rangers finances, the present SPL investigation into allegedly undeclared payments to players or “second contracts” goes back to 1998. Does this suggest that the influence of these were already sufficient to attract players such as Rozental?
Maybe Mr Ogilvie might recall the answer to that one.
Posted by Paul McConville