If Brexit has been a great political football match, it stands to draw a distinct line through what has ironically been called ‘English’ football, especially as the Premier League looks more like the United Nations with every passing (no pun) match.
The ink has barely dried from ‘Brexit Day’ on January 31, but it’s not much clearer what the effect on the great game will be. The touch line is new immigration rules for ‘overseas footballers’ playing in England after December 2020, which will come into force when freedom of movement between the UK and the 27-nation bloc ends.
The issues to tackle come from how immigration rules should affect football once the UK has a new trade deal with the EU. But, there’s a lot of tussling for the ball by two premium players in the English game (I wont talk about the football associations for the other parts of the British Isles and whether they will be bound by any agreement). For the Football Association, English football’s governing body, the UK’s departure offers a rare chance to curbs the number of foreign players at top clubs. That will force clubs to develop more local talent which should boost the England national team. The Premier League, the top tier of English club football, is fighting the proposals, fearing they will harm one of the UK’s great international exports.
EU footballers would be expected to meet the same criteria as non-EU nationals to gain a work permit, such as regularly playing for their national team. It will revolve around money, inevitably, as the major clubs are likely to use their financial muscle to corner the smaller market for so-called ‘home grown’ talented and likely see transfer prices for such players rise, with some clear implications throughout the structure of British football.
For now, those two governing bodies are at an impasse.
The chart below shows that starting positions are skewed, so clubs like Burnley, which have developed on the back of few non-home-grown talent, would have less need to adjust than say Wolves—heavily dependent on imported EU talent through a controversial ‘Portuguese connection’.