Britain is commonly well known by millions round the world for things such as Football, The Royale family and Harry Potter. However, recently the biggest thing on everyone’s mind is Brexit. What is Brexit? Brexit is simply the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European union. The impact that this will have on Britain is set to be huge and residents of the United Kingdom are in panic mode. The biggest sport in the UK is the world game of football. Back in 2016, when the referendum occurred, Approximately 52% of the British public voted out of the European union and due to this winning figure, it has caused heavy amounts of uncertainty around the effect Brexit could have on Professional Football clubs, leagues and players.
The Premier league was founded in 1992 and was formally known as the Football League First Division from 1888-1992. One of the main biggest concerns around the Brexit deal in terms of Football is whether the top biggest teams in England such as Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool will continue to be able to buy the top European players. A study that was conducted last year showed over 300 current EU players playing in the premier league, championship and Scottish premiership would not meet the No deal criteria. When Brexit becomes a reality, the European public will no longer have the privilege of walking through UK boarders for free. A visa will now be required, and this applies to European footballers on transfer to and from the UK. Football is still classed as a job to these athletes and they still need to have the right to ‘work’ in the United Kingdom, this is also known as a working permit. As of today, all British football clubs are free to sign any players that are within the European union. However, with less than 6 months until the UK are set to leave the EU, that is about to change dramatically. The new working permit restrictions demand that football clubs can no longer buy European players that do not hold a certain percentage of international caps. For example, players in the top 10 FIFA ranked nations in football, such as Portugal, France and Spain have to have played ‘30% of international games within the last 2 years’ to qualify for the new regulations. Those teams ranked outside of the top 10 ‘need to have played 45% of internationals within the last 2 years’ to qualify. These regulations indicate that Manchester united would have struggled to sign a top-quality player like Anthony Martial due to his lack of French international caps within the last 2 years. Inflated transfer fees may cause the biggest international players to look elsewhere around the world for value, which could create a cloud of fear that the premier league may be in danger of losing its ‘magic’. The final decision on whether a work permit may be granted will be taken by the Home Office in the way it is right now for players without an EU passport. If these rules already applied, the likes of David de Gea and Juan Mata would never have made their moves to the Premier League. This situation may force clubs to dip into their academies for talent which many people suggest that this would boost England’s future hopes to compete for world trophies in the future such as the prestigious world cup. It is true however, that these top clubs in Europe won’t be affected the most, in fact it’s the clubs towards the bottom of the Premier league and championship who will struggle the most, the clubs who don’t own millions upon billions to spend on certain world class players. N’golo Kante is a perfect example. Many people in today’s football world forget that Kante was a former Leicester city player before becoming one of Chelsea’s best. Chelsea had bought Kante for 32 million in 2016 from Leicester city just after the Foxes had made the unthinkable into reality when Claudio Ranieri won the Premier League trophy. 3 years on from that, N’golo Kante has recently extended his contract with Chelsea for another 5 years. He is now worth over 1 million pounds and with Brexit in full swing, the days of plucking a hidden gem from France could very well be under threat.
Not only will the players be affected, but also the managers will come under fire. European managers have been able to work in the UK due to freedom of movement that is a rule that lies in agreement with the EU. European managers such as Jose Mourinho have been able to work in the UK due to the freedom of movement that comes with being part of the EU. However, despite the important negotiations that have taken place over the last 2 years and will continue to do so, with their seven figure salaries and the tax that can be sliced from it, managers should overall see a positive impact from Brexit. So what do the Premier League and EFL think about it? Well, premier league officials made a statement, ‘The premier league is a hugely successful sporting competition that has strong domestic and global appeal. This will continue to be the case regardless of the referendum result’. However, EFL chief executive Shaun Harvey had other things to say, ‘The ramifications of leaving the European union may prove to be significant to every industry in the UK, including football’. The concerns arisen by the EFL are due to the 2nd tier clubs being unable to buy certain players from Europe in the future due to the new restrictions. Second tier clubs such as Leeds united and Bolton will simply not have enough money invested to buy certain players in Europe if the UK leaves the European union. It may become a certain reality when managers are told by their clubs’ board of directors to stop searching for talent in the EU and bring the focus to British players or those around the rest of the world in places such as south America. That would put the lock on bringing the best Spanish, Italian and French talent into the UK and would in turn stop the Premier League and English football league from becoming the globally attractive football products they wish to remain.
Professional Football Association chairman Gordon Taylor believes that ‘Brexit will enhance English football allowing clubs a better chance to develop home grown talent’. One of the biggest grievances within English football, especially in the premier league, is that home grown talent with high amounts of potential such as Chelsea’s Reuben Loftus-Cheek, are thrown down the pecking order to be replaced by a European superstar with an extortionate price tag. Stoke City chairman Peter Coates has said, “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. 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.’ It will be clubs such as Stoke, West Brom and Aston Villa that will struggle the most after the referendum. Coates also mentioned ‘Depending on the Brexit deal, the Premier League, one of our country’s success stories, could be damaged by freedom-of-movement restrictions. This could also affect the Championship. If this goes badly, it will be places like Stoke that suffer the most.’ From now on English clubs will have to pay more for transfer fees to match clubs across the channel and beyond. The Football Association has a key aim to have more born and bred English players playing football in the top-flight division. The FA and other governing bodies must consult to reach a consensus with other stakeholders who are invested within the sport. In football those stakeholders are the premier league, EFL, the professional footballer’s association, the league managers association and the home associations. The Football associations job is to primarily focus itself on England’s success at international level, and because of this they have an invested interest in making sure English born players thrive in the Premier League and develop in the right way which will give them a much higher chance of creating a brighter future for England’s international team. The premier league clubs on the other hand are solely focused on being the best team in the world with the strongest squads and winning the biggest trophies year after year. The Premier league clubs don’t have an interest in English football alone. They will do whatever seems necessary to cast the line out to the widest networks to find the greatest hidden talents of tomorrow. English clubs are extremely unlikely to have the ability to sign 16/17-year olds as they are currently allowed to do under an EU specific exception. FIFA’s rule states that international transfers, of players under the age of eighteen, are strictly prohibited. In recent years alone, hundreds of young talented players have joined English academies under this exception. Losing this exception will give European clubs with similar financial and scouting resources an additional two-year window for which to scout, recruit and sign the best young players in Europe, as well as those players from South America and elsewhere that have dual citizenship in an EU country. An example of this is Cesc Fabregas who at the age of 16 joined Arsenal, a transfer that will be nothing but impossible post Brexit.
An interview was recently conducted with newly appointed chairman of Northampton town football club Kelvin Thomas. When asked if he thinks Brexit will affect his club, he replied ‘No, I don’t think so. I think it will affect the higher levels, the premier league levels, but you must think there will be a skilled worker carve out within the agreement. I know the premier league have been calling for that from the government, but even if there are restrictions put on the number of international players or international visas that are allowed, you have to think there will be some sort of carve out to protect the premier league’. He also went on to say that ‘it won’t affect the lower leagues in terms of football’, due to the limited number of international players that teams such as Northampton town sign but he believes that ‘it will heavily affect the economy’. Fans of football will also be affected by Brexit. English fans wanting to travel abroad to watch the likes of the champions league, Europa league and England international away games will have to apply for a visa before they can travel to the European country and a high price tag will sit alongside it. This could fundamentally affect both the Europa and Champions leagues respectively.