Transfers In Football Post-Brexit

While the United Kingdom's withdrawal from the European Union passed in to law in January, we remain in a transition period until 31 December 2020. That means, for the time being, players who hold a European passport continue to be free to play professional football in the UK without requiring any prior approval.That will change once the UK formally leaves the EU. The Government has already confirmed that post-Brexit, EU citizens must be treated the same as citizens from the rest of the world with respect to migration. This means that post-Brexit, EU players will be required to follow the same process as Non-EU players.Currently, players who hold passports from outside the EU/EEA need permission to work in the UK. The Home Office has approved a points based system through which the FA can grant that permission. Clubs must apply to The FA for this approval (called a Governing Body Endorsement) and, if granted, the player will be able to play for that club.A player will be automatically entitled to that endorsement if they have made a certain number of appearances for their senior national team within a certain period (they can also provide evidence of games they have missed due to injury/suspension). The number of appearances a player needs to have made depends upon the FIFA ranking of their national association (the lower the ranking, the more appearances required). If a player does not meet the automatic criteria a club can request that the FA Exceptions Panel consider issues such as the player's experience and value (e.g. the transfer fee). The bar applied to non-EU players at the minute is relatively high, which inevitably reduces the number of non-EU players who are able to play in the Premier League or EFL. If the same points system is applied to EU players post-Brexit, the number of EU players who are eligible to play in the Premier League is also likely to reduce. For example, N'Golo Kante, a two-time Premier League title winner, would not have met the automatic criteria for a work permit prior to his transfer to Leicester in 2015. In addition to this, the model of clubs signing young players with potential from across Europe would be significantly impacted.As the FA acknowledged in its 2019 Financial Report (released on 28 April 2020):“The most significant risk of Brexit to The FA is the impact leaving the European Union will have on player transfer and movement...This has a potential negative impact on the number of European players entering the English game which could result in a devaluation of the domestic rights but could be an opportunity for the English players in the Premier League but also other leagues from EFL to WSL”.At the time of writing, no decision has been reached as to what qualifying criteria (which will apply to all overseas footballers) will be used post-Brexit. Any new system will need approval by the Home Office. The FA has confirmed that it will consult with the Premier League and other leagues together with the Home Office to determine the system to be used moving forwards.The Premier League has for many years prided itself on being able to attract talent from across Europe and the concern will be that if clubs are no longer able to do so to the same extent, that may affect the overall quality of the league. As the FA acknowledges, this may have an impact upon the huge value placed on television rights sold by the Premier League. Discussions and the outcome will need to be watched with interest.

The content of this page is a summary of the law in force at the date of publication and is not exhaustive, nor does it contain definitive advice. Specialist legal advice should be sought in relation to any queries that may arise.