THERE is something about international sport that draws people in. 

However much you dislike football or rugby or the Olympic Games, there are few who choose to ignore the action completely when their home country is in action. 

The loosening of the rules around nationality in recent years began to erode the magic of international sport. 

These days, it is not uncommon to watch players play football or rugby or whatever else for Scotland – and many other nations – who had barely set foot on these shores until they decided to switch nationality. 

In less then two weeks time, another blow will be dealt to the integrity of international sport, on the rugby pitch at least. 

Last month, World Rugby changed the rules regarding international eligibility for rugby union meaning that from the 1st of January, players will be able to switch nationality, even if they have previously played international rugby. 

Until now, players had been “captured” once they won their first senior cap but now, even having played internationally for one country will not prevent any subsequent switching; if that player is eligible through the birthplace of themselves, their parents or their grandparents, they can apply for an immediate transfer, meaning a player could potentially play for two different teams in the upcoming Six Nations. 

That is, admittedly, unlikely to ever happen but the fact such a ridiculous situation could, in theory, occur, highlights what an absurd rule change this has been. 

There has long been a debate over where the line should be drawn when it comes to international eligibility; it is far from a black and white issue but the fact the rules are becoming looser and looser is making international sport all the poorer. 

I’ve long been uncomfortable with the rule which allows athletes to switch allegiance having lived in a country for only a few years – this is what we’ve long become accustomed to in the Scottish rugby team which is chock full of Australian and South African-born players who have relocated to Scotland for a few years – but at least that rule required a degree of commitment to their new country in terms of residency. 

Now, however, a player could, quite feasibly, play for one of the top international nations for the majority of their career and then, when they slide out of that side, overnight switch to a lesser nation. 

So, we could potentially see the Scottish team filled with Kiwi, Springbok and Aussie has-beens. 

Only time will tell quite how much this rule change is used – or exploited – but the more it is activated, the more international sport will lose its appeal. 

It may be wishful thinking, naïve even, to imagine that every player who pulls on a Scotland shirt has spent their childhood dreaming of such a moment. 

That ship sailed long ago. 

But it’s not unreasonable to expect international players to have some kind of connection to the country they are going to represent – and it’s hard to argue that merely having one grandparent born there a hundred years ago is that connection. 

International sport still retains a charm that nothing else possesses. Let’s not ruin it. 


This evening, the BBC will crown 2021’s Sports Personality of the Year and while there is almost universal agreement that this programme, which was an absolute highlight of my childhood, has turned into three hours of tedium each December, I’m more riled up than usual over this year’s nominations. 

There is little dispute about the worthiness of the naming of Emma Raducanu, Tom Daley, Adam Peaty, Tyson Fury, Sarah Storey and Raheem Sterling on the shortlist but the glaring, egregious omission is Josh Taylor. 

This year, the 29-year-old became undisputed light-welterweight champion of the world, holding all four major belts, plus the coveted Ring magazine belt, something no Brit and only six male fighters have achieved since the reset of what it meant to be undisputed world champion in the mid-2000s. 

Far be it for me to suggest there is any kind of anti-Scottish bias, and in truth, there probably isn’t any conscious agenda against Scots in the nomination process, but it is hard to fathom why Taylor has not made the list. 

Particularly when Fury, who was indisputably impressive in defeating Deontay Wilder for the second time in October, holds only one belt.  

Oh, and has served a doping ban earlier in his career.  

Similarly, Sterling may have been integral to England’s run to the final of Euro 2020 this summer, but is that a match for undisputed champion of the world? I think not. 

Taylor himself tweeted on the day the nominations were released: “May 22nd 2021. First person in the UK to become undisputed world boxing champion in the 4 belt era & hold all the championship belts. History maker. Shove yer SPOTY right up (your) ar*e”. 

It’s hard to disagree with the Edinburgh man. 

By its nature, the SPOTY nominations will never be universally agreed upon – and there is plenty more dissent online about the omission of the likes of Mark Cavendish, Jason Kenny and Joe Root amongst others – but no mention of Taylor highlights quite what a farce this awards show has become. 

Taylor does not need the validation of a has-been television programme to celebrate what he has achieved this year, but his absence in the main award nominations only serves to highlight what a waste of an evening SPOTY has become.