EU footballers warned: your time at an English club might well be up

by Tony Attwood

Not every professional footballer is a member of the Professional Footballers’ Association.  Some players may be members of the trades union for their own country, but many are not members of any union.

Which might be a shame if they work in England because although the PFA is contacting all its members concerning the deadline for EU nationals to apply for settled status in the UK, some who are not members of the union might not realise quite what they have to do under the new arrangements.

This of course is a side-effect of the UK leaving the European Union.  Previously players from any EU country could play in the UK as of right.  This is no longer the case, and most people who has citizenship from any other country beyond the EU is treated as a foreigner with no specific rights in the UK.

The only exception to this is that of citizens of Ireland (sometimes known by British politicians for political reasons as the Republic of Ireland, although the constitutional name of the state is Ireland), who are subject to the Common Travel Area (CTA) arrangement which covers the UK, the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man and Ireland.   This agreement pre-dates both British and Irish membership of the EU and is not dependent on it.

Under the CTA, British and Irish citizens can move freely and reside in either jurisdiction and enjoy associated rights and privileges, including the right to work, study and vote in certain elections, as well as to access social welfare benefits and health services.

The UK and Irish governments signed a Memorandum of Understanding in May 2019 reaffirming both governments’ commitment to maintain the CTA, and the associated rights and privileges, in all circumstances.

So no problem for Irish footballers (nor those from Guernsey, Jersey etc) but for citizens of the rest of the EU – they are now treated the same as players from Argentina (to take one example).

Thus all foreign nationals need to get the agreement of the UK government and the FA that they are entitled to work in England.

The indication is that for international players that will not be a problem.  Just as Aubameyang was able to get his work permit because of his status as a player of high international repute so many others will be able to.  But for some other lesser known players this could well be a problem.

Take for example Guendouzi – if Arsenal wanted him back.  He’s played for France under 21s, but never for the full national side.  That might count against him.   On the other hand the fact that he has played 57 times for Arsenal might help him.

But countering that is the fact that Arsenal’s list of home grown players is not full but their list of foreign grown players is full.  So we’d have to move someone on anyway to make room for him and hope he is given permission to play in England despite his lack of international experience.

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