Call made for Scotland to copy English pre-contract rules after surprise deal

Motherwell manager Graham Alexander has called for Scottish football to follow the English game over the regulations governing player pre-contract agreements.

Motherwell's Tony Watt could potentially play against Dundee United twice in the cinch Premiership this season after signing a pre-contract that will see him join the Tannadice club in the summer. (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)
Motherwell's Tony Watt could potentially play against Dundee United twice in the cinch Premiership this season after signing a pre-contract that will see him join the Tannadice club in the summer. (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)

The current rules present the potential of a conflict of interest next month for club striker Tony Watt after the 28-year-old agreed a pre-contract to join Dundee United in the summer. It seems likely he will remain on the books of the Fir Park side for the rest of the season with the two clubs appearing at odds over a transfer fee valuation that would see Motherwell let Watt move on in the current window. The scenario could result in Watt facing up to his club-in-waiting when Alexander’s side meet United in February 9. And while the Motherwell manager says he will have “no qualms” about selecting Watt for the confrontation should he still be with the Lanarkshire club then, he favours the English system that prevents such awkward situations arising.

Unlike in Scotland, where players are free to sign pre-contract agreements with any other club when they enter the final six months of their contracts, down south players who are moving within the same set-up can only do so come the final month of their deals. With most contracts running till the end of June this effectively prevents them playing against their soon-to-be-employers. Alexander believes this is a far more sensible approach.

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‘It’s a strange situation, the pre-contract thing [here],” said the Motherwell manager. “You don’t experience that in England – players signing pre-contracts and being able to play against the team that they are joining in the same league. Personally I think it’s something that needs to be looked at. I don’t think it’s right, but it is what it is, so we have to deal with it and we’re trying to deal with it in the best way we can. As I say to my players, I want them all to do well. I don’t take anything personally if they want to leave. Every man has a right to make his choices in life and then stand by them. We respect that but ultimately my main focus is on Motherwell the club. That’s what I’m here to do – to be the guardian of Motherwell’s best interests.

‘But I think I can marry both up, with the player and the club, and get the best for both. It’s a weird situation, to be honest. I don’t know if I’ve got the right answers. I don’t know if any manager has about that scenario. I think you have to take each individual by how they behave personally. Tony has been up front with me. I’ve been up front with him right from day one. We’ll see how long that relationship continues for, who knows?

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“At all the clubs I’ve managed, I’ve fallen out with players and things have been going on outside of football but, as long as they come in and train well, I’ll consider selecting them. There are always issues that can muddy the waters and distract footballers but, ultimately, players want to train and play. They’re paid to do that, so, if Tony is still with us when we play United, I’d have no qualms whatsoever about picking him.”

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