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Page last updated at 18:53 GMT, Sunday, 1 March 2009

Scots seek change on eligibility

By Clive Lindsay

Andrew Driver and Nacho Novo
Driver and Novo have both been touted for Scotland honours

Foreign-born players could become eligible to play for Britain's national teams by the end of the season even without blood ties to those countries.

And one of the first to benefit could be Hearts' English-born winger Andrew Driver, who is wanted by Scotland.

Scottish FA chief executive Gordon Smith hopes to extend the criteria to those who have had at least five years schooling in their chosen country.

"We hope to take the proposal to Fifa by the end of the season," he said.

Smith told BBC Scotland that he already has the backing of his Welsh and Northern Irish counterparts and the proposal will go to world football's governing body should the English Football Association also agree.

The criteria for eligibility came under the spotlight earlier this season with the suggestion that Spanish forward Nacho Novo could play for Scotland should he apply for a British passport after more than five years in the country with Raith Rovers, Dundee and now Rangers.

"Under Fifa rules, Nacho Novo could have played for Scotland, but we the associations of Great Britain had ruled that out and left it for birth in the country or bloodline, which was parent or grandparent," explained Smith.

MY SPORT: DEBATE

"If you have been educated here, you are not just here to play football. You have not just come here to take advantage of a regulation.

"If you are Spanish, for example, come here and play football for five or six years and all of a sudden you get a British passport and you're Scottish; we don't think that is the right way to receive recognition."

Present rules have denied Driver a full Scotland call-up, despite the 21-year-old having represented the country at schoolboy level, but Smith played down suggestions that his proposal was simply an attempt to find more and better players.

"It's different from what's happened before but takes into account there's a lot more movement within European countries to do with labour and citizenship and takes into account people who have come here seeking political asylum," said the chief executive.

"It is nothing to do with finding players. It is just about not excluding people who by all intents and purposes feel Scottish and were brought up here.

"We've got to take into account the fact that all the nations have immigrants to the country either through people coming here to work or through seeking asylum here.

"The criteria does not take into account those people and I just felt that we should be more inclusive and more welcoming by allowing kids with a minimum of five years schooling, if they have a British passport, to play for the national team."

Smith is confident that the rules will be relaxed quickly.

"We put this to the Welsh and the Irish and they agreed with it too and we are just waiting for the English to come back to us and they are considering it at board level," he said.

"If they are on board too, we will put an agreement in place."

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see also
Deal ends Novo's Scotland hopes
31 Oct 08 |  Internationals
Scots would welcome Novo switch
24 Oct 08 |  Rangers
Novo plays down Scotland cap call
06 Nov 08 |  Internationals


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