What does UK’s exit from EU mean for the Premier League?

by | June 25, 2016 9:23 am



On Friday morning it was announced that the United Kingdom has voted to leave the European Union.

A referendum was called and 51.9 percent of citizens across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland who voted decided to leave the EU after 43 years. Now, let’s not delve into politics too much here. We shall leave that to the good folks at NBC News.

However, the main question many of you will be asking if you’re visiting this page is simple: how does this impact the Premier League?

The answer in short is not much but there would still be an impact.

Premier League executive chairman Richard Scudamore spoke on BBC Radio 5 Live last week about Brexit and he supported the UK remaining in the EU as the PL is all about openness.

“The main reason we have concluded that remain is best is because of our outlook,” Scudamore said. “We are a global export. We look outwards. We are open to the world and do business with the world. Really, when it comes down to it you’ve just got to decide are we better being open? Are we better acting like we want to play our part in the world and be worldly citizens or do we want to send a signal to the world that says actually we’re kind of pulling the drawbridge up here. We’re going to take control of our own destiny.

“Well, that doesn’t seem to sit very well when you travel the world like we do being welcomed because of the fact that we are open for business, open for discussion, and open for cooperation. There is an openness about the Premier League which I think it would be completely incongruous if we were to take the opposite position.”

Now the UK has decided to leave, the PL and other leading organizations within it faces changes.

The PL has released a statement on Friday following the EU referendum result.

“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.

“Given the uncertain nature of what the political and regulatory landscape might by following the ‘Leave’ vote, there is little point in second guessing the implications until there is greater clarity. Clearly, we will work with the government and other bodies whatever the outcome of any process.”

When it comes to the movement of players from Europe to the PL, it would now mean that theoretically players from outside Great Britain would have to apply for a work permit to do so. Just like current non-EU or European Economic Area (EEA) players have to.

Of course, there are certain guidelines players from non-EU countries have to meet to play in the PL (such as play in a certain amount of national team games over a certain time period which you can find here via the English Football Association) to keep a certain standard of play.

For example a non-EU player from a nation ranked inside FIFA’s top 10 has to have played at least 30 percent of national team games in the two years prior to applying for a work permit to be able to play professionally in the UK. The lower ranked his national team, the higher percentage of games he has to play. The likes of N’Golo Kante, Dimitri Payet andAnthony Martial, who all arrived in the PL last summer, would not have been able to gain a work permit to play in the UK if it wasn’t for their EU passport.

The numbers below show the new work permit laws passed in March 2015 by the FA with regards to the FIFA ranking of the players nation and the percentage of games he must play to gain the work permit.

FIFA 1-10: 30% and above
FIFA 11-20: 45% and above
FIFA 21-30: 60% and above
FIFA 31-50: 75% and above

Last season 432 EU players were registered in the PL and although they will all likely be able to remain in the UK after this landmark vote, it is believed any new players from Europe will have to go through the work permit process. However, it has been calculated by the BBC that up to 100 players in the PL do not meet the current work permit guidelines (plus another 332 if you count the English Championship and Scottish Championship) and therefore could be ineligible to play in the UK when the exit from the EU is complete.

That’s unless the English FA, who work with the British Home Office to set the parameters for work permits, alters some of the rules. The FA could, of course, also just be slightly less lenient if a player from Europe doesn’t quite meet the standard set out above and gain them entry via an appeal anyway. In non-EU countries such as Norway and Switzerland, work permit laws are relaxed to allow players to move in and out freely. Will we now see PL teams stockpiling players from the EU or the EEA ahead of the UK’s eventual exit? Probably not.

One spin off for PL teams could well be that they are now forced to only buy players from the top FIFA nations who can get work permits easily, with gems such as Kante and Payet unable to gain entry to work in the UK. That would mean transfer fees would rise for most, if not all, PL clubs. Another impact is said to be agents and players already asking PL clubs to pay them in Euros instead of British Pounds as the value sterling has plummeted since the decision to leave the UK was announced.

Conversely, that could make PL teams more enticing for overseas investors, especially from the U.S. With Swansea City currently undergoing a buyout from an American ownership group, the huge fall in the value of sterling could see them recoup plenty of cash for doing absolutely nothing. If the pound remains weak against the dollar then now could be the prime time for American investors interested in buying a PL club to pounce.

Another area which could be impacted is youth players moving freely within the EU when aged 16-18. Under FIFA rules, no players can cross borders under the age of the 18 but in the EU that was not the case. In the past the likes of Cesc Fabregas and Hector Bellerinjoined Arsenal from Barcelona under the age of 18, while Manchester United signed Adnan Januzaj and Timothy Fosu-Mensah in similar circumstances.

Labor laws between the EU and the UK will become very complicated going forward and politicians believe the UK’s full exit from the EU may not be rubber-stamped for at least two years and probably a lot longer than that. Of course, bilateral trade agreements with individual EU countries could also be set up by the UK to help ease the red-tape for EU citizens looking to work in the UK in the future.

In short, this will be a long process but it will certainly have an impact on the ability of European players moving to the UK in the future.