Continued uncertainty around Brexit is impacting everyone’s lives, impacting on businesses across the UK, including those of decision-makers in football.
Football is not immune from discussions about the UK withdrawing from the European Union, particularly with regards to the Premier League, which is one of the most popular, marketable and profitable leagues in European football.
England’s premier league teams include many overseas players, with scouts travelling worldwide to look for promising players. The English Football Association (FA) has used Brexit as an opportunity to announce a new policy proposal that the maximum number of foreign players in each team’s 25-player squad will fall from the current 17 down to 12.
The game’s governing body has stated that the new policy has been designed to increase the number of English players in the Premier League, because of concern about the reduced playing time for English players in the sport. Yet the policy could affect the ability of the national team to continue its success at international tournaments.
In 1992, foreign players made up 30 per cent of Premier League players, but England’s top tier has become increasingly international, and in 2019 that figure has more than doubled to 67 per cent. Under current rules, all players from EU nations are free to play for English clubs under the EU’s freedom of movement rules. Those rules will cease to apply once Britain leaves the bloc and the Brexit transition period has ended, with clubs having to secure visas for their new players.
It has not yet been clarified if teams will be forced to sell players who do not fit the new squad size rules. For younger overseas players, some will not be considered as foreigners if they have played and been trained at a British club for at least three seasons before reaching the age of 21. Currently, negotiations between the FA and the Premier League are continuing, since nearly all teams will be affected by the suggested rule changes and the Premier League are disputing claims from the FA that the standard of English football will be improved under the new policy.