After Brexit, how many foreigners can play in a Premier League team?

By Sir Hardly Anyone

You might have thought that since it is around three and a half years since the UK voted to leave the EU that by now we might have worked out what it means for football, but seemingly not.   For there is still no agreement as to whether UK clubs will be able to sign 16 to 18 year old players in the summer 2020 window.  Nor indeed an agreement on how many non-UK nationals will be allowed to appear for a team in each game.

The signing of 16 to 18 year olds from within the EU has been a major bonus to UK clubs across the years and there is agreement that this will have to stop under Fifa rules – something that will reduce the effectiveness of UK clubs in the transfer market (remember Bellerin, Pogba and Fabregas for example).

But the issue is when does it stop.  The UK is leaving the EU now but it then goes into a transition period.  Does the transition period mean we’re in or we’re out?  In, means one more window of signing the youngsters, out means its all over and there are no more windows.

The Daily Telegraph newspaper managed to get a quote out of Fifa on this matter which read, “As far as Brexit is concerned, please understand that we are not in a position to make any predictions on the application of the so-called EU-exception contained in article 19.  Generally speaking, the protection of minors is a key element in Fifa’s overall regulatory framework relating to the transfer of players and the effective enforcement of the relevant regulations is paramount.”

Whatever happens about the transfers this summer what everyone agrees on is the fact that after that, the ability to sign young players from Europe is over.  The importance of this can be seen in the way that even with the very liberal laws about moving 16 to 18 year olds across state boundaries, clubs like Liverpool and Chelsea have still got into trouble with signing young players and ended up being prosecuted.

What’s more this is only a UK problem – with France, Germany, Spain, Italy and the rest of Europe all remaining in the EU, they will be able to continue as before, leaving Premier League clubs out in the cold.  This is one of several reasons why generally speaking the Premier League clubs were against leaving the EU.

And so the battle between the FA and the Premier League over how many non-English players can play in the Premier League is far from resolved and the FA may well now try to strengthen its hand, given that it is no longer bound by EU law.   It is already proposing an extension to the home grown rule, and could well push for even stricter embargoes on players who are not registered as “home grown”.

Indeed I wonder if the “home grown” notion might not be abandoned completely.  It was introduced to get around overt discrimination against players who were not English – which of course would be against EU law.  But with that gone, the FA could well insist that clubs always put out teams of whom 10 of the 11 players starting the match are qualified to play for England.  There’s nothing to stop that now we are outside the EU.

This could lead to a battle between the FA and the League as to who actually runs football in England.  Who is it who has the right to make the rules?   Nominally it would seem to be the FA since they are the authority recognised by Fifa, but the early split between the Football League and the FA in England (which didn’t happen in most countries where there is a unitary authority running football) has left us with two organisations at war with each other.  One funded in part by the state, the other wholly commercial.

Like so many things in England (it seems to me) none of this has been worked out and resolved in a timely manner.  What would the FA do if the Premier League simply said, “we are abandoning all these false regulations about who can play?” and played who they liked?  Presumably they would turn to the government and ask for legislation.   And since the government pays for the FA (which of course means tax paying people like me are actually funding that ludicrous organisation) I guess the government could say the FA had the power to do what it wishes.

But it is the Premier League that makes money and pays tax – it is the FA that goes cap in hand to the government and is given hand outs.  So the inclination could well be to support the League.   We shall see.

8 Replies to “After Brexit, how many foreigners can play in a Premier League team?”

  1. Interesting. I did not know that FIFA is ruled by the EU as I thought it was an ‘International’ association encompassing more than Europe. I am , seemingly , wrong in this assumtion.

  2. I think it is quite simple really. The issue is one of free movement, the ending of which was one of the key drivers for those voting to leave the EU.

    I propose that clubs in voting districts which voted Leave should be compelled to only register players who are born in the UK and preferably in those areas. This would be both democratic and reflect the very real concerns voters in these areas had about excessive numbers of ‘foreigners’ coming into their towns and cities.

    Clubs from constituencies that voted to Remain (and that is obviously only a small minority, a mere 48%) should continue to be allowed to purchase players from within the EU and elsewhere (and of course that includes other part of the UK).

    After all isn’t the cry of so many visiting fans from the north of England, from East Anglia, from Wales etc that ‘we support our LOCAL team’? Well in that case make sure your team is local.

    Long live the Independent Republic of North London (IRNL)!

  3. I like blacksheep’s idea . You ought to reap what you sow ! Or be rewarded/pay for your fore or hind sight.
    Hope AFC are not affected negatively in any way ?

  4. So no European Cup for britain no Champions League i mean Why do you need that for you can stand on your own. And shifting a lot of trade with Africa Wow what a dream.

  5. Utterly agreed Blacksheep. In fact I am going to make it a MAJOR Untold campaign. I’ll see if I can get a map of leave voting constituencies and map it against PL clubs.

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