Smith explains player rule change

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Gordon Smith claims football was a secondary concern to social inclusion when he instigated the rule change that frees Hearts winger Andrew Driver to play for Scotland.

FIFA last week approved the Scottish Football Association chief executive's plan for the four home nations to accept players with no blood links into their national teams if they have at least five years of schooling in that country.

But Smith is adamant that Driver's case had no bearing on his plan and told BBC Scotland: "It's more of a social aspect than a football one - people who are brought up in a country and feel a loyalty to the country can then play for that international team."

Oldham-born Driver, who made his England Under-21 debut during the summer's UEFA finals, could now play for Scotland because he went to secondary school in Edinburgh.

But Smith was more concerned with reacting to a more fluid global population by opening the door to children who arrive in Scotland at a young age.

He added: "There is a lot more immigration - people have come to work in Scotland, come here to live, come here for political asylum, and have brought their families with them. And I think we should be more inclusive.

"Football is secondary, I just felt it was better for young players who come into that category and feel Scottish."

FIFA this summer removed the restriction that prevented players who had represented a country at youth level switching allegiance after the age of 21.

So Driver has plenty of time to consider his international future, and Smith will leave the ball in his court.

"It was not done on the basis of Andrew Driver at all," the former Rangers and Brighton player added. "It's a coincidence that it puts him in the category that he might play for Scotland. He has to decide that he wants to be considered for Scotland and he has to prove to be good enough. If both those aspects are positive, then we'll accept him gladly."

Copyright (c) PA Sport 2009, All Rights Reserved.

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Oldham Athletic
Brighton & Hove Albion

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