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No agreement on transfer regulations as Britain leaves the EU heralds league chaos

Technically it is the state funded FA that should be at the heart of negotiations, since it has a direct connection to the government, but the commercially funded Premier League seems to have pushed the FA aside and gone directly to Fifa to get a temporary agreement over the question of signing of players aged 16 and 17 from other countries in the European Economic Area.  But as to what happens thereafter, no one knows.

The EEA includes all EU countries plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. It allows them to be part of the EU’s single market.  Switzerland is neither an EU nor EEA member but is part of the single market – this means Swiss nationals have the same rights to live and work in the UK as other EEA nationals.  At least for the moment.

British clubs have had it confirmed that the arrangement will continue during the transition period which is due to run until the end of this year.  This means clubs have the rest of this transfer window and the summer to sign any player over the age 16 from within the EEA without restriction.  Cesc Fabregas and Hector Bellerin, both joined Arsenal through this arrangement.

However the end of the summer window will see the end of this arrangement and there is no sign at all of any agreement as to what will happen after 31 December this year, largely because there is no agreement between the Premier League and the FA – despite negotiations going on between the two since 2016.  The government appears to have other stuff on its mind.

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And to be clear, just as there is no agreement in terms of 16 and 17 year olds, nor is there any agreement in terms of older players.  This disagreement has been called both the “longest video assistant referee check in history” and “a Mexican stand-off.”

The FA wants to keep the rule about there having to be a quota of home-grown players who are eligible to play for England, in each club’s 25 player squad, and they want that quota to rise to 12 (it is currently eight) with there being no work permit restrictions at all for the other 13 players in the squad.

The Premier League wants to keep the minimum number of “home-grown” players at eight, again with the rest of the squad being able to work without work permits.

The FA’s view that more places must be kept for players who qualify for England, in order to help England win tournaments, has no factual basis in statistics whatsoever, as many smaller nations have done better than England internationally in recent years despite having their whole squad playing outside the home country.  In short the evidence suggests that it is not foreigners playing in England that is the problem, but the lack of English talent getting experience in other leagues that halts England’s progress.

The FA however argue that four of the players in England game against Bulgaria had played under 100 PL games and that English talent is being stifled by all the foreigners playing in England.

But what few people realised during the Brexit debate was that if the proposed restrictions on players entering the country been in place in the last ten years or so, around half of the foreign players playing in the PL would not have got a work permit.

Now however, both the League and the FA seem to be proposing to allow PL teams to bring in younger players from outside the EU, subject only to whatever number of “home grown” players is agreed as a compromise – something that was against one of the fundamental reasons for leaving the EU.

One of the big problems in this debate is that a huge number of foreign players brought into England by PL clubs don’t actually make a huge impact.  For every Dennis Bergkamp, Thierry Henry, Gilberto and Robert Pires there are players such as Park Chu-Young or Denilson, not just at Arsenal but in many PL clubs.

Of course part of the problem is the desire of PL clubs to buy players when young to mould them into the club’s style – Bellerin and Fabregas are perfect examples – and this does increase the chances of failure, as it is often less clear at a young age if the player will be able to adjust to life in his new country and evolve his natural footballing talent.

As things stand it is the Home Office in the UK that has the absolute power in this matter, and their view is that no non-UK player can be allowed to work in the UK without an endorsement from the FA (NOT, we may note, the Premier League) unless they have played a certain number of times for their country in the last two years (the number of times varying depending on the size of the country and age of the player.)

Roughly speaking this means if Arsenal want to sign a player from one of the top 10 countries under the current rules he must have played in 30% of their matches.  For the next ten countries it is 45% and so on.  If this approach fails to qualify the player for entry an appeal can be made on the basis of the player’s wages, transfer fee and prior experience.

And if you think this is all too technical and boring to worry about, remember Martinelli.  The way the system works at the moment is very much in our favour in getting him into the UK.

But if it turns out that the rules are going to change, there will have to be a deadline date set in the future, which will probably mean a huge scramble for young talent before the deadline day.

Meanwhile the FA like to point out that (using figures that turned up in the Guardian) only 33% of the players that started for PL clubs last season were qualified to play for England, whereas in 1992 it was 70%.   However that did not necessarily make England a much better team during the years of more Englishmen in the league.  In 1970 for example, the figure was around 95%, and England were world champions, but that didn’t help us retain the trophy.

At present 20% of players in English academies are not English – which doesn’t really seem that excessive.  However against that there is the case of the modest number of UK citizens who play in the EU.  The number of such British players is small, but it is worth noting that La Liga only allows clubs three non-EU players in a squad.  Any British players in EU countries will be applying for a work permit and whether they will get one depends to some degree on how the UK is handing out work permits to foreign players working in the UK.

Beyond this is the question of what happens to the pound against the Euro and other European currencies in the coming months and years.  The exchange rate has gone against Britain during much of the Brexit process and quite a few economists are concerned about how the rate will change over the next few years.  A decline in the value of the pound will make life harder for English clubs wanting to buy foreign players.

And there is another issue.  Part of the success of the PL is selling its games across the world is that the league is a showcase of the best talent in the world.  That’s what brings in £5 billion for three years of matches.  If that money declines, either because of the exchange rate or because of a decline in the number of foreign players of note in the league, the attractiveness of matches for overseas viewers declines, and the downward spiral begins.

But before we get to that point, somehow the FA and League are going to have to agree on how many non-UK citizens can be in each 25 man squad.  Without the certainty of such an agreement the whole process of transfers starts to fall apart as clubs will find themselves wanting a player but not knowing if they will ever be able to put him in the squad.

8 comments to No agreement on transfer regulations as Britain leaves the EU heralds league chaos

  • Les Martin ( LeMmy )

    I can imagine certain football clubs declaring independence of course all matches henceforth can be played in any tax haven or owner bought private island thus we will have Tonnenha da Cunha Chelsea Cayman . Manchu Taiwan . Man City Dubai . Arsenal Orkney . West Ham Sheppey

  • I have to comment on a part of your article that says the if the pound falls against the Euro in the next 5 yrs. Well this is so untrue the facts are the pound will and has been rising against the Euro for the last 1 yr ! The rigging of the pound on the run up to the Referendum and after has stopped. As it didnt have the affect it was suppose to have. The Euro will fall even further over the next 5yrs against the pound fact. As Germany fall deeper into recession and France struggle not to fall into a deeper one also !! Greece and spain and Italy will not help matters for the Euro as they are all more than struggling to meet their requirements ie Payments !! They also are more than struggling to keep their economies going. With the pressure being put on the EU as to Poland bulgaria Hungary etc etc etc i cannot see the EURO lasting 5 yrs let alone the EU !! As regards to players work permitts there will be a plan put in place for players coming into the UK as there was before we entered the EU. All it require is the right documentation being put together and as last time the Home office had control of all these matters and gave preference to english clubs and even had a fast track system in place !! i know because i worked for the HMRC then and players coming to the UK were fast tracked through !! FACT …The scaremongering days have gone we are leaving the EU the Single market and political system of it as well !! Common sense tells anyone that things will be put into place for clubs with the guidance of the HMRC and home office like before !!

  • carl

    Players outside the UK can come to the UK under the special talent agreement which is that players that are regarded as special meaning really good with a brilliant talent can come to the Uk already on this system !! All that will change is the need of documentation. Players will still come from the EU and around the world but simply under work permits not through free travel orders !The agents and clubs will work with the HMRC and Home office to implement thee and renew when needed !! As like before we entered the EU !!

  • Chris

    @Carl,

    remembering some of the ‘talented’ players Arsenal did hire, fact was that unless the player had played a certain number of games for his national selection, he was not considered talent (unless I am mistaken). UA ran a series of stories about that. These players were then loaned out to Europe and, again, if I am correct, after 3 years playing in the EU, then they were considered OK to come play in the UK. So mayn were loaned out, with the full ‘so called’ press naturally labelling Arsenal as totally incompetent in their choice of youngsters, their incapacity of getting them a work permit, etc etc.

    So this might not apply for a Martinelli for example who was an unknown i terms of national selections, and this is the case for many a young player, is it not ?

    And it is absolutely no ‘practical’ solution when one considers it from the point of view of the football club.

  • Mikey

    @ Carl

    I’m a little unclear. My understanding is that currency speculators do just that, “speculate”. Definition = “invest in stocks, property, or other ventures in the hope of gain but with the risk of loss”. Yet you know that, “The Euro will fall even further over the next 5yrs against the pound fact.” Fact!!

    You do realise that just putting the word “fact” at the end of a sentence doesn’t actually make it so! Methinks your obsession with Brexit is the far more dominant factor in your assertions than any wide understanding of economic forecasting.

    “FACT …The scaremongering days have gone”. You’re so-called “scaremongering”, I assume includes when economists predicted that the pound would fall dramatically with Brexit? It did indeed and may well be recovering a little.

    The month before the referendum the £ was worth 1.30. The month after the referendum, the £ was worth 1.18. Today, the £ is worth exactly the same as it was in June 2016. Yes it’s increased 2% in the last year (not what I’d call a great investment in any circumstances) but it dropped 10% overnight after the referendum. Take off the rose tinted glasses…….and do stop saying FACT at the end of every sentence, particularly when it isn’t.

    You may end up being correct but your guess is just that. The majority of economists don’t agree. I’m going to go with them. Despite the nonsense statement, “who needs experts”, I’m afraid we rely on them to get the most reliable outcome that’s why, when I’m ill, I go to a doctor rather than a bloke in Wetherspoons!

  • Gord

    OT: Corruption

    It is possible, that gambling and match fixers have been in Scotland from China and Singapore since 2010. Surely they have crossed the border?

    https://www.thenational.scot/news/18186422.senior-figure-says-chinese-match-fixers-scottish-football/

  • Gord

    OT: Officiating in FA Cup

    This is Tony’s home team? In any event, I first read an article from the Derby point of view, which said Darren England missed a sure foul on Marriot early in the game (by the Northampton captain). This article from a Northampton news outlet doesn’t come out and say it was a foul, but it leaves that impression on me.

    https://www.northamptonchron.co.uk/sport/football/fa-cup-pictures-cobblers-grab-their-big-chance-impress-and-pitch-1375540

    In any event, more lousy officiating.

  • Gord

    Fo.Lo has been claiming all day, that they have the TRUTH about something. Who here trusts them?

    Spuds have another replay in FA Cup action. How to go spuds!

    State Aid got no state aid, and is out of FA Cup.

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