By Tony Attwood
There is an ongoing clamour to buy some more players, and indeed the latest Untold chart of players tipped to be coming to Arsenal this summer is now running at 122.
But there’s a problem with this, apart from the fact that even the best of new players can take a year to get to the top of their game. And the problem is that half way through next season the UK leaves the EU – and almost certainly without a deal (since there is no sign of anything being agreed at all as yet).
As a result there seems to have been no progress on how non-UK footballers can be employed after December this year. Footballers will obviously qualify in terms of exceeding Ms Patel’s salary threshold but other than that the UK government has simply demanded that the FA and Leagues put forward their proposals for football transfers from next year.
Which is where there is a problem. For getting the FA to make any decision is impossible. Getting them to compromise doubly so. After all, this is the body that could not even spend the money Sport England gave it to improve community pitches across the country – and so had it taken away from them. And they still believe their own propaganda about England’s problem being that we have too many foreigners here.
It has been reported that the FA want the abolition of the “Home Grown” rule and a reduction of the number of non-UK citizens from 17 to 12. So all the old stuff about players being registered with the FA for three years plus before they are 21 years old being “HG” goes out the window.
When told this was absolutely not on, and that there could be a revolt against the FA by the League the FA said it would petition the government to make it easier to get work permits for footballers provided that English players were guaranteed more playing time in the Premier League. The PL told them where to stick this idea, and no one seems to have moved since.
Arsenal have a squad that is almost totally EU, but with few players who are British. As things stand many of our players will not be able to play for Arsenal from 1 February 2021. And the fear of clubs outside the elite group is that the elite group would simply hoover up all the English players of any quality at all, while the quality of the league overall would decline rapidly. Although Manchester City would still be able to trade on the complete inability of Uefa to handle its own regulations and the ability of CAS to run all its hearings in private, that would still not find them enough players of quality to meet the criteria.
In short the Premier League would decline to somewhere around the level of … well, take your choice. Portugal perhaps. And the reason would be the same one that we have shown so many times (and which slowly the national press has picked up on). We have far fewer qualified coaches per thousand players than anywhere else in Europe, all because of …. yes, the FA.
One of the big problems of course is that all the top clubs in Europe are geared up to trading top players freely. Now suddenly England is going to be treated as an outsider. The rest of Europe carries on sharing players around, but not England.
But there is a second knock on effect. A lot of players under 18 come to England if offered the chance for two reasons: being in England is a showcase for their talents given the PL is shown on TV around the world, and it is a perfect opportunity to learn English, which is considered a major part of their development as a young player who might well travel in future.
Now if you have been with Untold for a long while you’ll know we have often touched on the topic of Fifa’s regulations concerning the movement of footballers aged between 16 and 18. If Britain had not been in the EU we would not have been able to recruit Cesc Fabregas or Hector Bellerin, or a number of other youngsters now in our youth teams.
Fifa has said the current rules will continue until December this year. After that…. no one knows.
The last we heard from the FA was that it wanted the maximum number of overseas players to be 12 from the start of 2021. And foreign coaches would be subject to normal immigration controls, which could well mean that although Mr Arteta might get permission to stay, the chances of a other top foreign managers turning up in England subsequently would decline. Would Pep Guardiola, Jurgen Klopp and Jose Mourinho accept having to sit in an exam room and take a citizenship test?
There is a points based system for non-UK citizens to enter and work in the UK; players can qualify if they played enough internationals. So Martinelli, for example, would be excluded. This is the sort of thing, presumably, that people who voted to leave the EU wanted.
So players in the top ten national associations must have played in about a third of their country’s games in the last couple of years. Which of course cuts out all young players. Bringing in players from countries outside the top 50 in the world rankings looks pretty well impossible.
Mind you, British players playing in the EU won’t automatically be able to continue either. Gareth Bale might want to come back to the UK. And our new approach to loans, with players going to Germany, will also be kaput.
So how many players do we have who are UK citizens and thus automatically entitled to be here? In the list below I have just given a number to the players who I think might under other circumstances have been at Arsenal next season.
|MF||Henrikh Mkhitaryan||31||Swap deal|
|MF||Emile Smith Rowe||19||UK||Academy|
Kieran Tierney is interesting. He is a UK citizen so under the 2021 rules he can play for us without being counted. But under the existing rules he does not qualify as a Home Grown player, since he is Scottish!
Anyway, we have a squad of ten, so if we are allowed one foreigner we can put out a side. No subs though.
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