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.”
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.
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