There is a lot of speculation and uncertainty as to what the outcomes of the Brexit will be but it will undeniably have effects throughout Britain, football included. Let’s take a moment to consider what the results of the referendum might mean to the Premier League.
A topic that immediately comes to mind is the free movement that clubs and footballers from EU nations have perhaps taken for granted. As a member of the EU, footballers are allowed to work in the UK without a work permit. Leaving means that players that come to Britain before they gain international recognition might not be able to get a permit to work in the UK. Before we start overreacting and mourning the loss of players pre-emptively, Maria Patsalos, a Sports Immigration Partner at Mishcon de Reya LLP, has clarified that it is highly unlikely those European players who are currently here, or who were signed during the negotiation period, will be forced to leave as the Home Office ‘does not generally impose legislation retrospectively’. This would mean it is unlikely that the Premier League would lose talents (at least until their current contracts expire) such as Anthony Martial, N’Golo Kante or Dimitri Payet, who would have not qualified for a work permit had they not been EU nationals. However potentially missing out on similar talents in the future will be a concern to UK clubs.
In addition to the point above, talent might be missed out in terms of young rising stars. Under the Fifa Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players ‘International transfers of players are only permitted if the player is over the age of 18’ unless the transfer takes place within the EU or European Economic Area (EEA), in which case the minimum age is lowered to 16. It is unknown whether the UK would remain within the EEA but this potentially means losing the ability to utilise the exception in Article 19; the ability to acquire young talents in a cost-effective manner, as generally the costs of acquiring players will be at their lowest at this age. In the past, players that have been transferred to the Premier League under this exemption include Hector Bellerin and Adnan Januzaj.
With recent reports of the pound dropping in value, it might be assumed that buying players from outside the UK immediately becomes more expensive but it’s unlikely so simple. Lots of Premier League clubs however have a significant income of foreign currency which can be used to pay for transfers. Furthermore, most clubs will likely have been hedging to deal with currency fluctuations. It seems wise at this point to give a reminder that there is a lot of guesswork involved but it does seem the value of the pound may fall in value, at least in the short term and this will have an effect on UK clubs. Issues regarding currency fluctuations affecting the buying capabilities of UK teams and the value of players will likely become clearer in the ongoing weeks and months.
On a more positive note, the vote might incentivise developing talent at home. Rules have been introduced by the FA in the past with the intention of striking a balance between wanting to acquire the best and the need for more openings for young British players. A leave vote in some ways might help this balance to be reached, encouraging teams to invest more time and effort into these young Brits leading to a long term benefit for the ‘home-grown’.
The effect on free movement might not be that large. The view of many experts is that the rules could be relaxed in the face of leaving the EU; Switzerland being an example of a country that is not a member of the EU but having a bilateral Free Movement of Persons Agreement that allows EU citizens to work in Switzerland without limitations.
It seems unlikely the biggest clubs will be affected greatly as they are willing and able to pay the higher costs that might result. Similarly, world class players will likely fit the international recognition requirement to receive a work permit and therefore Brexit wouldn’t impede them wishing to transfer to a UK club.
If there is anything that is clear right now it is that nothing regarding the Brexit is entirely clear but how the Brexit impacts UK football will be a concern to fans and not just UK fans, with the Premier League receiving large support worldwide and we are sure the world of football will be following the situation closely in the coming future.