Man at His Best

How Brexit Will Impact The Premier League

Why do people still think this was a good idea?

BY Jason S Ganesan | Jun 28, 2016 | Fitness & Health

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To go out on a limb: issues of sovereignty, trade deals, and the free movement of labour may not have been the chief concern of people outside the UK after Brexit (actually, probably not many UK citizens as well, with the vote for UK to leave the EU commemorated by England leaving the Euros).

While some wondered if it would cause Game of Thrones to move out of Northern Ireland (and result in more Dorne plotlines), others were asking about whether it would have any effect on the Premier League. Chelsea’s Cesc Fabregas was one of the first to weigh in, saying that it would be harder for teams to sign foreign talent with the devaluing British pound.

Turns out Cesc may be partially right. In an interview with Vocativ, Richard Elliot of the Lawrie McMenemy Centre for Football Research (in case your mind wandered to vacancies, remember, Brexit) said that while the signing of top stars wouldn’t be affected, those of lower level players might well be.

With stricter work eligibility restrictions a possibility once Brexit is made formal, Elliot said that it could mean “the more average EU players currently recruited to Premier League squads aren’t recruited in such high numbers.”

Technically, 330 of these “more average” EU players currently playing in the Premiership, Championship, and Scottish Premiership would not meet the required standards. Unless the UK were to include free movement of labour as part of future trade negotiations with the EU, that is.

These standards are based on the international ranking of the player’s country of origin, which are currently used for non-EU players before they can get work permits. For instance, players from the top 10 teams in FIFA’s world rankings (Belgium, Germany, France, Spain, Portugal and, um, Austria) would need to have played 30 percent of their country’s games in the two years prior to application. The lower the team’s rankings, the higher the percentage becomes.

Another possible consequence is the development of more homegrown talent. FIFA states that no players under 18 are allowed to be traded across borders, but that age is reduced to 16 if the border in question between EU countries. With potentially less 16-18 foreign players in British academy setups, it could force clubs to give more opportunities for future Jesse Lingards and John O’Sheas.

In theory, the pre-Bosman foreign player cap could also be brought back, but this seems unlikely. Mostly because there’s too much money at stake, as evidenced in the Premier League’s official post-referendum statement.

While it contained the usual PR guff on working with the government to sort issues out in the new “political and regulatory landscape,” it also seemed uncannily certain that the Premiership’s “strong domestic and global appeal” would not diminish in the slightest—implying that the status quo would remain with or without formal EU membership. Because, as the Premier League table has shown every year since its inception, moneyed interests always win in the end.

But then Leicester happened, and then ‘Leave’. So who knows, really.