UK leaving the EU: Premier League awakens to the dangers of an FA takeover

by Tony Attwood

Untold first raised the issue of the impact of the UK leaving the EU in an article published on 26 June 2016. I’ve run a few more articles since, and the response of some to suggestions that there have been problems with getting work permits and assurances have not met with acceptance.

However the FA has published its view now on how leaving the EU will affect the world of football saying that, “there is widespread consensus that no current players will be deported as the Home Office very rarely imposes legislation retrospectively.”  Sadly they give no evidence to back up this claim – perhaps because there is none.  The counter argument would be that these are unique times as Greg Dyke seems to tell people quite often.

As the Guardian said, “At the last count, there were more than 400 [non-UK] players plying their trade in the top two divisions in England and Scotland, with the vast majority unlikely to pass the stringent work permit requirements introduced by the Football Association in March 2015.”

One thing that few people have mentioned is how leaving is going to affect the “home grown” notion.  It was only introduced because the EU does not allow nationalistic rules in football.  So players like Bellerin would lose their home grown status.  If then the FA pushes its view that England would do better if more PL clubs played more England qualified players then they will seek to tighten the rules of overseas players.

So the “benefit” that comes out of this is that maybe there will be a bigger pool of talent available for England.  But as we showed in one of our analyses published in 2010 which has occasionally been used by the press (when they feel like it) the number of players who play in their own home country league, has nothing to do with the success that country has on the pitch.

The PL’s view is that despite the proximity of the leaving date, clubs still have no clarity on whether there will be restrictions on their ability to sign European players after we leave the EU.  Likewise there is no news on a possible hardening of the current home grown rules which allows (for example) Bellerin to be homegrown.

The Premier League has demanded that football to be made an exception to the instant restrictions there will be on immigration after we leave (unless we do a Norway deal).  But there is a serious worry that the Football Association and government will use the situation to further their own agendas – which are out of step with the agenda of the PL.

Indeed Gareth Southgate clearly had this in mind as he spoke of his group of players getting “smaller and smaller”.

The Premier League has already indicated that it accepts that after leaving the EU English clubs will no longer be able to sign European players under the age of 18 as we did with Fabregas and Bellerín.  It seems to have given up on that one, but is still fighting on the issue of over 18s.  The point is now financial: the PL pays the state £3bn in tax a year and wants to be a special case.  But the UK government won’t make any arrangements until it has the terms of leaving agreed by Parliament and the EU, and both still seem a long way off.

Thus the Premier League fears that the current work permit restrictions on players from outside the European Economic Area will be extended to all players from EEA countries if the UK crashes out with no deal.

Research by Dr Laurie Shaw of Harvard University, shows that between 1992 and 2018, over half of the players signed with EEA passports would not have qualified for a work permit. These, according to the Telegraph, include Cesc Fabregas, Riyad Mahrez  and N’Golo Kanté.  They add, “The Premier League’s own research suggests the number of players who would historically have failed to receive a work permit is even higher, at around two-thirds.”

The PL want all restrictions on signing overseas players lifted – which would be hard to implement in the face of a greater looking inwards rather than outwards.  But fearing this view which they see would be catastrophic, the FA might well plan to act first with the government’s agreement.

An FA spokesperson quoted by the Telegraph said, “We are continuing to work with the Premier League, EFL and a range of government departments, including DCMS, Home Office [and] Treasury during this consultation.

But here’s the thing.  The PL is at heart an idea.  An idea which could exist anywhere.   If it is no longer an idea that can work in England, investors could simply up sticks and move to France or Germany or Spain or Italy.  It’s their money and they could go where they like. They could even take their clubs with them if they wanted.

[More anon.  This story has more twists to come.]

5 Replies to “UK leaving the EU: Premier League awakens to the dangers of an FA takeover”


    For you to work from, also, Pogba is considering a move back to turin in January, which sounds about right, as Jose is keen on Hernandez, CB/LB also sounds about right, with Marcelo keen on linking up with good friend CR7 as well. This all fits Juventus’ current development profile. Would ensure the league and make them very serious contenders for the CL. Which will be key to why Max stayed, using us to ensure his buget. the offloading of Higuain, with loan to buy, fits the mould. Also with Spurs likely to allow Dembele to leave for the far east at 31. All after the end of the accounting period for the year.

    New material for you only

  2. Hmmm? Problem is potentially looking to arise. Save, it’s nipped in the bud. But both the Government and the FA should know very well what they want to do or see done in this regard of non UK professional footballers continuing plying their trades in the UK’s professional football clubs or allowed to come afresh to sell or advance their talents there for a living.

    I think if one goes back to the reason for allowing non UK footballers to come in into the Premier League in particular, is because the FA and the PL management want to see the local English players improved vastly on their games as they play alongside their non UK top quality professional footballers. So that in turn, England chances in regional and global tournament will improve vastly as the English players play alongside their foreign import counterparts.

    But in truth, this improvement by the English players in regional and global tournaments has not reached the level envisioned for them to reached by the government and the FA after they have for many years played alongsides their foreign mates at top clubs level. Thus, culminating to England not winning any regional or global tournament at senior level since they last won the World Cup in 1966 i.e. 52 years ago. That quite a longtime for England to continue to bear without doing something positive over it.

    The Brexit could present an opportunity for England to do something positive to reverse the ugly trend that has seen England national football team failed to win any major tournaments at senior level in 52 years. In this case of allowing foreign top professional footballers play in the top flight of England’s top professional football clubs, has the ends justified the means?

    But nevertheless, the UK Government and the FA have to be cautious in their handling the situation as it’s they will capitalise on the Brexit to deal with the issue of allowing too many foreign football players at youth and at senior level play in the professional English football leagues so that they don’t throw away the bath and bathing water with the baby inside it bathing away after Brexit.

    Let me suggest to the UK Government and the FA to limit the number of home grown players who are not natives of England to 4 in number. And the remaining 4 in the allotted 8 at PL clubs should be English natives home grown players. And even in the 17 players in the PL clubs who are usually foreign players should be reduced to 15 with the remaining 2 slots going to English players exclusively.

    If this is done, the exclusive list of senior English players at each PL club side will by law reach 6 in number compulsorily. But they could be more depending on how many senior English players are at a PL club as there won’t be restriction on how many of them should be at a PL club.

    If this arrangement is acceptable to the UK Government and the FA and implemented, the question of Gareth Southgate, the England national team manager having the English players becoming fewer and fewer will no longer arisen as there will 6 senior English players at each PL club at a given time to make a total of 120 players he could invite for England national football team assignment which could start giving him a selection problem. But save the Premier League global appeal from collapsing should the Government and the FA introduced stringent laws and regulations to drastically reduced the number of foreign players in the Premier League after Brexit has come into force.

  3. Tony do you foresee a few players accepting a British passport if it reaxhes the point where some non Brit ayers may have to leave?

  4. Ben I really have no idea how any of this is going to play out. To me there seems to be no clear planning or understanding of the situation, and there seem to be so many entrenched views that at the moment I think the most likely outcome is that we stumble from one mess into another. In other words from here on, the most likely outcome, it seems to me, is that everything happens by accident not design.

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