In Depth

Premier League Brexit fears: English football’s top flight seeks exemption

How leaving the EU could impact the sport and the signing of players

Prime Minister Theresa May has been busy trying to thrash out a Brexit strategy with the European Union - and now making a deal with the Premier League has been added to her already-busy agenda.

It was reported by The Daily Telegraph this week that the Premier League is urging the Government to “abolish all restrictions on signing foreign players” because of fears that Brexit will “harm the league’s competitiveness and global popularity”. 

There are concerns in English football’s top flight that there could be “dramatic restrictions” on Premier League clubs signing players after Brexit. Plus potential new quotas “mandating the selection of more homegrown players”.

The Football Association, the Government and the Premier League are discussing a number of issues of “how Brexit will affect football in the UK”, says the Telegraph.

The ongoing issues include:

  • Clubs’ right to sign European players 
  • Possibility that rules requiring selection of homegrown players would be strengthened 
  • Which players will count as homegrown 
  • Whether all restrictions on signing overseas players could be abolished 
  • Lack of clarity over the implications of a ‘no deal’ Brexit
Kante and Mahrez deals would have fallen through

With the issues still being discussed, the Premier League has called for football to be exempted from any new rules that “limit the access of European workers after Brexit, allowing clubs to sign any players they wish over the age of 18”.

Currently Premier League clubs have been able to sign players without work permits from the European Economic Area (EEA). While players outside of the EEA “must satisfy strict criteria to gain a work permit, like playing in 60% of international matches”, the BBC reports. 

In a separate article the Telegraph has put together a list of 11 players who “wouldn’t have got a Premier League move under Brexit rules”. 

Players on the list include Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet, Chelsea midfielder N’Golo Kante and Manchester City winger Riyad Mahrez.

The Telegraph says Kante would not have been issued a work permit when he signed for Leicester from Caen as he was not a full France international at the time.

When Algeria international Mahrez signed for Leicester from Le Havre he was able to secure the move as he holds a French passport. However, that exemption would be closed.

Positive talks

The BBC reports that the Premier League is wary of the issue of clubs signing European players, but it has held “positive discussions” regarding the fears. 

Last month two football club chairmen - Burnley’s Mike Garlick and Stoke City’s Peter Coates - said Brexit would be “hugely damaging”.

Garlick told The People’s Vote campaign: “The destructive Brexit path being pursued by the Government threatens to have a hugely damaging effect on clubs across the country.   

“It threatens to make the widening inequality gap in our top division even worse. The hit to the value of the pound against the euro, largely caused by Brexit uncertainty, is already making it harder for clubs to sign players.

“And ending freedom of movement will make it much more difficult for teams to attract the right talent, if the Government brings in more restrictive conditions for work visas for players from Europe.”

Speaking to the BBC, a Premier League spokesperson added: “Like many other organisations dependent on a combination of domestic and international talent, we are waiting to better understand what the political and regulatory landscape will be after the UK leaves the European Union.

“Access to talented footballers from across Europe has played a key part in the growth of the Premier League, with match attendance and global interest increasing significantly as high-quality foreign players have taken their place in the competition with and against the best British and Irish players.

“It is vital that our clubs can continue to acquire European players with the freedom they currently enjoy. We have held positive discussions with government about the importance of access to European players for our clubs, and the many cultural and economic benefits a globally popular Premier League brings to the UK.”

‘Brexit could wreck football’

Premier League bosses say that Brexit could wreck English football, the Daily Star reports.

A league source said: “There is no doubt Brexit could set football in England on a downward spiral. Our league has a reputation for attracting top international players and managers.

“If they can no longer come, the standard will drop, and the whole thing becomes a less attractive package. We could end up minor players in the game.”

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