By Tony Attwood
It is not a topic I have seen debated at all – which seems to imply that everything on the transfer front will continue as now when the UK leaves the EU. Except there have been a few players where the story of late has been that a work permit has been denied to a player that Arsenal wanted – Hamza Mendyl is the latest example.
To the best of my knowledge the The Highly Skilled Migrant Programme (HSMP) which was the way in which footballers could come into the UK from outside the EEA was superseded by Tier 1 of the Points Based System (PBS) during the course of 2008. After that, in the special case of football, the immigration of footballers was handed over to the FA, who tended to accept proposals from all Premier League clubs no matter who they were intending to bring in.
So the old system of “has he played enough times for his country?” etc was basically abandoned, and it was felt that the PL was such a moneyspinner for the country in terms of broadcast rights and its value to the tourist industry that if the club was willing to pay for the player he could have his permit.
But not with the case of Mendyl. So why not?
Mendyl was named in Morocco’s 23 man squad for the world cup in Russia, and has played 13 times for his country since 2016. In 2017-2018 he played 13 league matches for Lille, having played for their second team (Lille II) in the previous season 26 times. These are the sort of figures that would have allowed anyone in, in the past.
The immigration system is however not in the best of health. In April 2017 the British Prime Minister, said, “We have been very clear, as I was as Home Secretary for six years, that it is important that we have net migration that is in sustainable numbers. We believe sustainable numbers are the tens of thousands.
“Obviously leaving the European Union means we can bring in control in relation to people moving from the EU into the UK as well as people from outside the EU coming into the United Kingdom.”
So does that mean that the FA will be stripped of its job of doling out work visas for footballers as it has been doing, or is it simply being told to reduce the number of immigrants for footballing reasons, or did it just feel that it didn’t like this player? Germany certainly did not have a problem with him as he has now signed up with Schalke 04.
The FA’s rules are vague to the point of uselessness in this regard. They say, “A club need to have applied for a permit prior to the window closing. The UK Home Office has a points-based system based on which clubs must apply to The FA for a “Governing Body Endorsement” for such players.
“If the player does not automatically meet these criteria, the club can request an FA Exceptions Panel consider the player’s experience and value in order to determine whether a Governing Body Endorsement should nevertheless be granted.”
In the past, being in a world cup squad has been sufficient for the “Governing Body Endorsement”, but even if not the FA Exceptions Panel has normally given the go-ahead.
To know what is happening we need to see if anyone else was turned down for a work permit in the last window. If not, that would suggest that Arsenal was being singled out, given the player’s youth and his position in the world cup squad. If it is not just an Arsenal thing then clearly the government has told the FA that the rules must be tightened and it is going to be interesting to see who is being granted a visa.
Maybe the days of lots of people from outside the UK and Ireland playing in the Premier League could be coming to an end. After all, it can’t really just be an anti-Arsenal thing. Can it?
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