Brexit – English Soccer and dispute over foreign players

Posted in Employment, labor and pensions Football

Another interesting and unforeseen consequence of Brexit is the power struggle that has been triggered between the Premier League and the FA in relation to post Brexit quotas for “home grown” players and the visa requirements for overseas players.

The FA is seeking to use Brexit as an opportunity to boost the longer term health of the national team by reducing the number of overseas players in each squad. This is not proving popular with the Premier League which takes the view that a continued influx of high profile international players adds to the global appeal of the league. 

Following the UK’s exit from the EU and the end of any relevant transition period, the freedom of movement of people within the EU will cease and the terms of movement of people within the EU is subject to change depending on the agreed terms of exit. The immigration requirements which would apply for “highly skilled” workers is yet to be determined but the government has indicated that preferential access to the UK for EU citizens and their families will cease after the transition period and so workers from the EU will be treated in the same way as those from other countries seeking the right to work in the UK. Would this apply to those seeking to play football in the UK?

Currently, the FA operates the visa system for non-European players together with the Home Office. Players are considered for work permits with a sliding scale of appearances required or clubs can seek an exemption by arguing the case for a work permit before a panel.  Clubs also have a maximum quota of overseas players of 17 in a 25 man squad.  The FA’s post Brexit proposal would be that the Premier League clubs would be allowed to sign whichever overseas players they want but they would be restricted to 13 overseas players (down from the current quota of 17). 

The Premier League has rejected these proposals, arguing that there is no evidence that reducing the number of overseas players would in fact strengthen the national team. Instead the Premier League have argued that the global interest in the Premier League is increased by having overseas players playing in the UK.

This is a continuing battle between the FA and the Premier League and Brexit is simply bringing it to a head. In fact the FA have indicated that they will argue for the change in the quotas even if there were to be a second referendum. 

Brexit will also make a difference to young players who don’t fall within the other visa requirements. Currently 16 and 17 year old players can be transferred between European countries, but after Brexit, clubs would only be allowed to sign players over the age of 18.

This dispute could have ramifications for current overseas players as clubs may be reluctant to agree long term contract extensions when the permitted quota for overseas players going forwards is so uncertain.

We look with interest to see how the discussions between the two sides, with different interests and priorities concludes.

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