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'It's a joke. We're all in the dark.' SFA criticised by Under-20 player for stopping nearly 500 youngsters playing in development league

Edinburgh Evening News logo Edinburgh Evening News 25/06/2021 Barry Anderson
a person standing in front of a wire fence © Dylan Anderson from Blackburn United Under-20s.

The Scottish Lowlands Development League – an under-20 programme providing players for senior clubs in the Lowland League and below – has been denied permission to use overage players who missed a full campaign when the Covid 19 pandemic forced a youth football shutdown.

Lowland League officials want to keep under-21 players involved for next season only but the SFA refused their request. The governing body argued that such a plan could negatively affect the Scottish Youth FA’s Under-21 league, and pointed to the loan system for those now considered too old.

a person standing in front of a building © Dylan Anderson pictured at Blackburn United's ground.

As a result, 483 players are now left looking for new clubs and many teams have seen their spine ripped out. The Development League is still due to begin next month but has delayed their start date until July 30.

Dylan Anderson, a midfielder at Blackburn United Under-20s, called on the SFA to rethink their decision. “I think it’s a joke the way it’s been handled,” he said. “A lot of boys in our team and other teams are now struggling for clubs.

“Senior teams have planned for the season ahead without under-20 boys thinking they had another year to go. A lot of us are just left in the dark not knowing what’s going on. I think it needs a rethink.

“What harm would it do to let us play on for one more year? The backlash to this decision isn’t good for the SFA, and the decision itself isn’t good for the clubs or the players. So nobody is winning here.”

The fear among many coaches is that players could now be lost to the game at a crucial age, rather than allowed to make up for the season of football they missed out on.

“We’re trying to develop players in this country to improve the standard of the game, then you get situations like this which stop people playing. A lot of boys could drop out of football because of this and if that happens it would be a real shame,” added Dylan.

“The SFA have created a situation where boys will feel there is no place for them any more. Many of us are settled in our clubs, we’ve been here for years and we have already done weeks of pre-season training. We’ve also played some friendlies because our league was starting next month.

“We’ve missed out on a lot of football along with plenty of other players around the country and we just want to be allowed to play in our teams.

“I don’t know where this will leave me because I’m still trying to get my head around it. It’s all been a bit of a shock.”

The Lowland League today wrote to the SFA asking them to reconsider and, at the time of writing, were awaiting a response. Many clubs affected have formed a pressure group using the social media hashtag #LetThe483Play.

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