top of page
  • Shauna Rush


Updated: Jun 2, 2020

This article was originally published on January 9th, 2019.

Unless you have been living underneath a rock, you would have heard about Brexit.

As it currently stands the United Kingdom is set to leave the European Union, before the end of the current soccer season.

How will Brexit affect the British soccer industry?

Despite the Premier League currently existing in a bubble detached from the rest of modern society, the self-titled 'Best League in the World' is not immune to the consequences.

Will British clubs be unable to attract top talent? Will transfer fees see a marked increase?

Is this the opportunity for home-grown British players to develop?

Signing players

British clubs worry that limits to the freedom of movement, will reduce the number of European players available from the $5 billion global transfer market.

Currently, players from across the European Union and European Economic Area (EEA) are allowed to play professionally in the UK. As part of freedom of movement regulations, while those from out with are required to obtain work permits.

To get a work permit, a player has to get a Governing Body Endorsement (GBE), from the respective association in Northern Ireland, Scotland or England. They must meet strict criteria, based on what proportion of their national team's competitive games they have played in the last two years. A higher percentage is required if coming from a lower-ranked nation.

After Brexit, the regulations that currently apply to those outside the EEA could apply to all players. These regulations if they had previously been applied it would affect 25% of all players currently in the Premier League.

If you include the Championship and Scottish Premiership to the total, over 350 players would not satisfy the requirements.

A good example of who it would affect can be seen when Leicester City won the Premier League in 2015/16, they would have had to do it without duo N'Golo Kante (@nglkante) and Riyad Mahrez (@Mahrez22), as they at the time did not meet the regulations.


Peter Coates, Stoke City chairman, and his family donated £250,000 to the Remain campaign before the referendum. Would state that Brexit could "damage" the Premier League product. As teams then struggle to attract the same "breadth of top talent."

Burnley chairman, Mike Garlick, echoed these thoughts saying "The destructive Brexit path being pursued by the government threatens to have a hugely damaging effect on clubs across the country." Adding "It threatens to make the widening inequality gap in our top division even worse."

However, on the other side Steve Parish (@CEO4TAG), Crystal Palace chairman, believes that the current EU regulations act as a blocking area to talent from the rest of the world.

"We've turned to the EU for most of our players and the bar is set very high for work permits outside of the EU," he said. "We also spend an enormous amount more on transfers with the European leagues than they spend generally and certainly with us."

The Gap

In 2017, Arsenal paid $60m to Lyon for French striker Alexandre Lacazette (@LacazetteAlex). Under the regulations, Lacazette, would not be granted a work permit. Since he had only played in three competitive matches for France, over the past two years.

This is not enough for Lacazette to receive a GBE, from the Football Association.

Players become automatically eligible, for a GBE, if they meet the criteria, based on the number of competitive internationals they have played in in the past two years. This also depends on how high the country ranks in the FIFA ranking.

As France is ranked in the top 10, Lacazette would be required to have played in 30% of the games. As you go lower down the rankings the regulations change.

Players from nations ranked between 11th and 20th have to play in at least 45%; 21 to 30, at least 60% and 31 to 50 at least 75%.

If a player does not automatically qualify, the acquiring club can apply to the Exceptions Panel. This gives the club an opportunity to arguing that the player's experience and value mean that they should be granted a GBE, despite their lack of international appearances.

The Exceptions Panel operates on a points-based system, awarding points if the club is paying a relatively high transfer fee for the player or relatively high wages, or if they have previously played for a club in a top league that has participated in a continental competition such as the Champions' League.

This system would have seen Lacazette's $60m move to Arsenal approved. Due to his high transfer fee and reported $13m wages, inflating his points, in the eyes of the Exceptions Panel.

Echoing Peter Coates' thoughts "The big clubs might be less affected because they tend to buy at the top end, the very established best players and they meet the criteria, but we don't know."

British Talent

Brexit is set to affect more than just the first-team of British clubs. Recruiting European players under the age of 18 for academies, is set to become more difficult.

Currently, FIFA's regulations on the protection of minors allow for players to transfer between the ages of 16 and 18. if they are moving within the EU.

Players such as Hector Bellerin, Nathan Ake, and Andreas Christensen would all likely have missed out on joining British sides.

Steve Parish believes removing the exemption could address the issue of academies signing "a lot of kids" from Europe, at the expense of young British players.

"In a post-Brexit world we could say what the quotas are for British footballers," he said.

"We can go back to the FIFA rule and that'll give much bigger opportunities to home-grown footballers and access to the national teams."

At the moment, Premier League clubs must have eight 'home-grown' players in their 25-man squads. 'Home-grown' does not necessarily mean British, but a player who has had three seasons at a British club, before he turned 21.

Examples include Chelsea midfielder Cesc Fabregas (@cesc4official), a Spaniard who came through neighboring Arsenal’s ranks.

The FA wants to impose a limit of 13 non-home-grown players in the 25-man squads.

It hopes that an increase in domestic players in first-team squads will help the home nations develop talent.

Value for Money

When the UK voted in favor of Brexit, the immediate effect was a crash in the pound's value. Already making it harder for clubs to sign players, due to the decreased value of the pound. This has meant clubs have had to spend more money to make up the difference.

Comparatively players are also receiving less money, due to the decreasing value of the currency. Therefore, clubs are having to pay them more in wages.

Parish believes that the ability to sign non-EU players will add increased competition. In effect reducing transfer fees and wages overall. "When we open up to talent from all over the world, we'll gain access to thousands of more players and that will drive down the cost of the acquisition of talent and could drive down wages," he said.


bottom of page