Celtic move for McKenzie could be scuppered by Brexit rules

By Euan Davidson

December 18, 2020

Celtic may be one of the first footballing casualties under new Brexit immigration rules.

From the 1st of January 2021, new legislation means that entry to the UK works on a “points-based system” (Gov.uk). Under these rules, footballers have to meet required standards to gain a move to a Scottish club.

Mark McKenzie, although undoubtedly talented, has no international caps for the USMNT. Under the British Government’s auspices, this may mean a move is off the cards.

According the Daily Record, the SFA have made a special appeal to the Government. The rest of the SPFL would see a talent vacuum under the points-based system.

Players who play their international football for a team ranked in FIFA’s top 50 nations are automatically allowed a move. However, McKenzie is yet to make his senior US debut.

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Additionally, the MLS is a ‘Band 4’ league. Europe’s top 5 leagues are Band 1. This relates to the points system, as more ‘points’ are awarded to a player in a higher Band league.


Mark McKenzie / (Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)

Long-term implications for Celtic

McKenzie is said to be extremely keen on a move to Celtic. Sky Sports‘ Anthony Joseph interviewed the young defender, who said:

“I’ve done my fair share of research (on Celtic and the Scottish Premiership) and I’ve always loved football so I’ve known about Celtic for a while. You hear about Celtic and the path of Virgil Van Dijk – going from there to the Prem.

“I’m no dummy when it comes to understanding the leagues. I have a general idea of what the leagues look like and keeping up with who is at the front of the pack in the league race and tournaments. I know about Celtic and the league – and a lot of other leagues. But it’s an exciting time, though.”

We’ve spoken before about Brexit, immigration rules and how they’ll affect Celtic. The Bhoys’ recruitment of the likes of Victor Wanyama and Virgil van Dijk would be scuppered by new legislation.

While that would mean more opportunities for youngster who progress through Celtic’s academy, it would have a stark effect on the first team overall. Equally, clubs around the SPFL will be adversely impacted. Unless the SFA can arrange a special deal with the Home Office, it seems Scottish football will suffer.


Celtic fans make some noise / (Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)

Another frustration for Scottish football fans

After a year in which Scottish football supporters have been locked out of stadia, this will prove to be another frustration. Scotland overwhelmingly voted against leaving the EU in 2016 (BBC).

Additionally, the history of Scottish football is full of un-fancied yet exciting foreign players. The 90s and 00s would’ve been less colourful without the likes of Mixu Paatelainen, Hicham Zerouali and Russell Latapy, to give just three examples.

For Celtic, whose foundation was built on immigration, the rhetoric over “skilled” and “unskilled” workers will leave a bitter taste. We expect our board to fight against these changes as part of the SFA’s overall effort against the Home Office.

As for McKenzie; we may have to watch him go elsewhere. If that’s the case, it’ll be our first signing ruined by Brexit. It certainly won’t be the last.