No foreigners here. Switzerland starts the crack down in football

By Tony Attwood

Switzerland, as of course you will know, is not a member of the European Union.  It applied once, but changed its mind, and decided to continue outside the union.

As such it has no obligation to allow EU citizens or indeed citizens of any other country into Switzerland to play football, or indeed do anything else.

So Switzerland is interesting, for it is in the sort of situation that the UK might find itself in, in the near future.

In terms of English football (and I am not sure about the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish FAs) restricting the ability of clubs to sign foreigners has been a major part of the FA’s campaigning, not least by getting the Premier League to introduce the Elite Player Performance Plan which incorporated the maximum 17 non-homegrown players rule for each squad.

In 2015 Greg Dyke tried to take this further by increasing the minimum number of homegrown players to 12 out of 25, and by re-writing the definition of “homegrown” to stop men like Bellerin and Fabregas from being counted as homegrown.

Such changes could have quite an impact as an article on Wikipedia suggests that around 150 “current Premier League players who were born in the EU would probably not get a work permit if they are subjected to the same rules as non-EU players.”   The rules could of course be expanded in any way that the FA and League wished, if the UK does leave the EU as currently planned.  There would be nothing to hold them back.

But is that likely?  Well, it is happening in Switzerland where clubs have for years survived on finding young talent across the world – often in Africa or South America, bringing the players to Switzerland for a few years and then selling them on.

The examples are multiple as the Swiss newspaper Le Temps recently reported: “Thun with Scarione, Chiasso with Raffael, Basel with Derlis Gonzalez. If we go further back in time, they are even legends: Giovane Elber at GC, Sonny Anderson at Servette, Shabani Nonda at FC Zurich….”

But now, as the newspaper continues, “By making migration a central theme, the SVP [political party] has become the most influential political force in parliament. The victory at the polls of its initiatives (“For the return of criminal aliens”, “Against mass immigration”) has made the laws on foreigners more stringent.”

Of course restrictions on migration don’t just affect football – for again according to Le Temps the country is “finding it increasingly difficult to attract international expertise. But many football clubs also suffer from this hardening [of the rules], as many non-European talents no longer have the right to sign a contract in Switzerland.”

Immigration has always been a fundamental issue within the debate about the EU within the UK, although the topic has rarely reached football.  But certainly if it becomes much harder for clubs to bring foreign players to the UK to play in the Premier League, then the nature of the League will change.

Arsenal, like many clubs, manages to abide by the homegrown rule because it has been clever at bringing in young players and getting them to be counted as homegrown because they joined early enough, but once outside the EU there would be no requirement for that rule to be maintained.

I have always argued that it is not the issue of immigration that has affected the performance of England on the international stage, but rather the number of coaches that we have in this country – a tiny fraction of the number that other countries have.  My article of June 2010 which revealed the link between the number of coaches and the effectiveness of the international squad has been picked up in a number of papers, but not by the FA – because it shows how incompetent the FA is.

And if we do leave the EU, the government could then start making exceptions for certain classifications of people from outside the UK to have the right to work here.  There has been much talk of everyone from nurses to fruit pickers being allowed in because of our shortage of labour in some areas – and I guess footballers could be added to the list.

But while few people who are ill are nationalistic enough to insist on only seeing a nurse with the UK passport, and few lovers of summer fruit insist on only having strawberries that have been picked by a citizen of the kingdom, the FA is managing to push through its message.

Only a few newspapers have looked at the facts and spot the link between the number of qualified coaches per 1000 players and success in international tournaments because attacking the FA is not what the English media does.

So I suspect that if we do leave the EU next year, our football rules will change.  Macey, Tierney, Holding, Chambers, Maitland-Niles, Willock, Smith Rowe, Nelson, Nketiah…  that’s nine who should be ok.

That doesn’t mean the rest will be thrown out, but teams in the future could look quite different.

16 Replies to “No foreigners here. Switzerland starts the crack down in football”

  1. OT: Sorry

    Some Untolders may recall I complained to the BBC about bias in their reporting of football and I gave a perfect example which annoyed me intensely one morning. I promised to share the outcome of that complaint. After nearly a month they’ve come up with the following.

    “I understand you feel the 8 o’clock news bulletin on Radio 5 Live Breakfast was biased in favour of Manchester City’s women as it mentioned their draw with Athletico Madrid but failed to mention another English women’s team winning their match in the same competition.”

    They continued, “We aim to include a very wide and diverse range of sports stories on our coverage, but the limited nature of broadcast means we unfortunately cannot include everything. We have to try and select what are felt to be the most newsworthy and current items…….We appreciate that we won’t please everyone no matter what is included.”

    As you may know, the “other English women’s team” in question was the English Champions who had scored five goals away from home with Vivienne Miedema (the English Women’s golden boot) scoring four of them.

    So when the BBC says, “We have to try and select what are felt to be the most newsworthy….”, on that occasion, (and from their Manchester based studios) what they felt was more newsworthy than the English Champions scoring four away from home was the runners-up in that league drawing 0-0 at home.

    And the BBC have actually justified their approach saying, “we appreciate this is subjective rather than an exact science”.

    The case for the prosecution rests your honour.

  2. Good morning!

    Interesting article. I hope that any changes don’t affect Arsenal to much.

    On the Switzerland them, browsing through some of the media this morning, we see this, which is a heartfelt explanation and analysis of what goes on with social media that directly affects players, quoting none other than ex-captain Granit Xhaka:

    If it wasn’t for the power of the worst of fans to create unease in the club, Granit would probably still be captain. That would have been great in my opinion! We would have had some continuity, Xhaka might have been playing a lot better because he would believe that he had the support of most fans, (which I hope he does) and the team might have felt much more together. That might have resulted in better results, a better feeling around the Emirates and all manner of things positive.

    Maybe the club could find a way to better counteract the ignorance, abuse and rabble mentality which seems to spread like a plague from social media comments. The papers and websites take the very worst comments, as if they are examples of how a large group of fans feel. This was written about on here recently (

    In the future, the club could take some actions:
    1) Counteracting negativity in the media by fostering a good relationship with the press, wherever possible. Giving exclusives to certain reporters who can write good, positive stuff about the club.
    2) Employing people to write positive blogs. With some money paid to good writers, these blogs could become very popular. Experts know how to expose blogs and websites to search engines and news feeds, etc. That would be easy and would probably have the effect of diverting some more impressionable fans away from the rubbish and hateful blogs and sites. More positive blogs would reverse some of the brainwashing of fans, which the more impressionable ones are susceptible to.
    3) The club psychologist is probably becoming more and more important. Xhaka has been through the rinser this last couple of weeks and credit to those around him that they have persuaded him to continue to give his all.

    There has been a lot of negative fallout from disgraceful blogs, dark side media reports and ignorant fans lately.
    However, Xhaka may have helped to find the solution. Where there is a will, there is a way. With a more positive media environment, players would have felt happier, performances would have improved, referees might have been less biased, results might have improved, Emery might have been encouraged, the players might have begun to see him as a real amazing coach, etc, etc.. Everything could improve with the feeling and support around the club. There is o reason why these things can’t happen. We have a lot of clever people at the club. I’m sure they will find a way to manage the modern media environment. Surely that isn’t too much to ask.

  3. Mikey

    It took them a month to come up with that crock of shit.

    The contempt with which the BBC and media in general treat us is an absolute disgrace.

    I believe yourself and or others from untold have done this before and received equally glib and contemptuous replies.

    Tony publishes many examples of the ridiculously disproportionate amount of negative Arsenal stories pumped out by the media and Bloggs, on an hourly basis by certain outlets, and still we have posters coming on here suggesting the bias is all in our imagination.

    Of course every club has negative stories about them but none to the extent, both in quantity and vitriol, that we do.

    You would think I/we were used to this rabid anti Arsenal agenda but it makes be as angry now as it always has done, and part of that is the hopelessness of knowing that there is absolutely nothing we can do about it.

    It’s no different to political bias in the media. Everybody knows it’s there but what can you do.

    These people, as has been said on here many times, don’t report the news, they create the news. It is so sad, because applied in the correct way the media can, and has been, such a power for good. Alas that power is all too often wielded for the benefit of those with power and money and that applies as much in the football as in the political World.

    On a personal note Mikey, I do admire your stoicism in attempting to at least exert a little pressure and ask the question, but alas they are just laughing at us.

    I wrote to John Cross at the Daily Mirror many years ago regarding how anti Arsenal he was, only to be told by the editor (not Cross, he couldn’t be arsed to reply to me) he was an ‘Arsenal fanatic’ (you could of knocked me down with a feather) and would be shocked to know I thought that.

    It was as contemptuous and dismissive as the response you received.

  4. Sally Pally thank you for that – especially the link to the article from The 42. I do hope that some of the people who believe that being negative about players is without consequence read this.

  5. @ Nitram

    That’s what makes it so demoralizing, the fact that I expect no better from them. They don’t even feel the need to apologise and admit that perhaps they might have got it wrong on even on this one occasion. My complaint was crystal clear, as was the evidence which they were unable to deny yet they find a way of justifying themselves rather than ever admit they actually could do better.

    In short, they have invented a reason to justify their deliberate bias and they are clearly happy with that.

    I have decided to escalate the complaint and, stamina permitting, will hopefully get to raise this with Ofcom.

  6. @Sally Pally,

    I totally agree with you, and would add one element.

    The fact that the club as such is NOT defending it’s most important asset : the players. I feel they are just throwing them under the bus whenever they feel some heat from the so-called fans. The lack of human respect that I feel this shows is the one thing that makes me doubt them.

  7. Mikey

    “In short, they have invented a reason to justify their deliberate bias and they are clearly happy with that.”

    In a sense that’s what I meant by ‘laughing at us’, because of course they know they are being biased. Of course they know it’s an ongoing agenda, of not just the BBC, but the media in general, to paint Arsenal in a negative light whenever possible, doing so by either ignoring positive stories, as in this case, or exaggerating negative stories.

    As a non political, unaffiliated body it is the BBC’s job to be impartial and report in a fair an even handed way.

    In this respect they clearly failed.

    “I have decided to escalate the complaint and, stamina permitting, will hopefully get to raise this with Ofcom.”

    Good luck with that and I look forward to hearing what happens (I think?) if anything.

  8. I think the global Coca Cola appeal which the Premier League is having as a result of opening it up to foreign players and coaches inclusion will not be jettison but be taken into consideration and correctly considered by the FA and the League management board before any changes are done by them to the extant rules and laws that now govern the home grown policy as it’s presently constituted. For, any exclusions of foreign professional players/coaches coming in into the Premier League to play and work could diminish the global appeal it has now to thus lower the quality of football being played at the level of the PL and to some extent even descend down to Championship where I believe foreign players and coaches also abounds.

    Should the global appeal of the Premier League be diminished with no longer global fans watching and foreign financial investment appeal which in effect also will trickle down to the Championship, the business financial loss that is envisioned could be incurred globally to the PL football club sides in particular and in general to the Championship and financial companies or institution sponsors could be of ripple effects. Therefore, the FA and the PL including the Championship managements should eschew any selfish interest that can misguide them to taking any decisions in formulating new rules and laws that will jeopardize the global fans appeal the PL is currently enjoying and the financial lagasee that comes with it.

    As a matter of fact, England primarily owns the Premier League and it’s sister League, the Championship and others. Where I believe people worldwide have invested so much billions of money in Pound Sterling or Dollars into it. And as a consequence of this investment, both England and the business outfits worldwide majorly now own the Premier League together primarily and secondary as partners in progress I would say. Therefore, the FA and the Premier League should not unilaterally take decisions on issues and matters as they affect the Premier League operational rules and laws as they concerned the inflow of top quality foreign footballers and coaches into the PL without taking on board the options on feelings of the PL business partners to arrived to a decision that will be acceptable to both parties.

  9. @Chris
    13/11/2019 at 12:33 pm

    Maybe the club could visibly do more to protect the players but behind the scenes it looks like they have very much helped Xhaka, at any rate. He is already talking very positively, probably being encouraged to realise that he is a great player, that he wants to stay and that he can fight for his place. Maybe he will even be encouraged to fight to regain the captaincy soon enough. That would be great! We don’t see what the club does behind the scenes but when you read the immediate aftermath of his being booed off the pitch, it is amazing that he is already fully committed again and has regained faith in the club and the proper decent supporters.

    So much depends upon the media background, and some of the fans will always just regurgitate rubbish from the media or cheap blogs. You can’t ban frustrated fans but you can ban damaging ones. The club could maybe work hard to work out a way to divert the fans’ attention away from the garbage blogs and towards some more wholesome pro Arsenal places.

  10. If you access your Arsenal news via the NewsNow site, all you have to do to escape these constant anti-Arsenal articles from the likes of Daily Mail, Le Grove, HITC etc. is right click on the publisher’s name and click ‘hide’. This eliminates all articles from them on the Arsenal page and save you from even seeing their misleading headlines. If enough people do that they will soon stop pushing out all these negative articles to save their readership. Try it, it makes for happier browsing.

  11. I’m not so sure the number of coaches impacts England as a football team. It is the type of coach both appointed by the FA and those that are appointed by the media.

    The several hundred media appointees are the dredges of social football. They reduce the whole game to shame by rediculing everything that goes on. They know better than the coach and better than the players and what makes it owrse, they get to write the head lines. Hoddle was shouted out because of a statement on reincarnation; McLaren was ridiculed because of an umbrella; Taylor was referred to as a turnip by our favoutite Aussie owned rag. The players all get their share and very little if any positive reporting occurs.

    OK so my calling them coaches is a little far fetched but we have them everywhere including at the Arsenal. They boo and abuse and we wonder why players like Xhaka get upset.

    These types will never allow any good to flow because they need the sludge to feed the insatiable attitude of the readership. The readership that truly destroys morale of any young up and coming talent.

  12. I think the paper have either got this wrong, or the politicians in question might just be lying about their relationship with the EU !!! (Who’d have thought THAT could happen !!!).

    Whilst they aren’t members of the EU, they DO participate in the Single Market because of treaties signed with the EU. the one that is relevant here is part of:

    Bilateral I agreements (signed 1999, in effect 1 June 2002)

    Free movement of people
    Air traffic
    Road traffic
    Technical trade barriers
    Public procurement

    So much as they might say they will do this, in reality they’d damage the Swiss economy … which is the reason the deals were signed in the first place !!!

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