English football clubs to face new immigration limits post-Brexit

Ollie Watkins of Aston Villa reacts after his goal was disallowed the English Premier League soccer match between West Ham United and Aston Villa in London, Britain, 30 November 2020. [EPA-EFE/Julian Finney]

The dominance of England’s football clubs on the beautiful game in Europe could become an unlikely victim of post-Brexit immigration policy, with new restrictions to be imposed on the number of overseas players which clubs can sign.

The new immigration rules for English football were spelt out on Tuesday (1 December) in an agreement between the Football Association, Premier League and English Football League.

Under the new rules, Premier League clubs will be limited to signing no more than three overseas players under the age of 21 in any single transfer window and a total of no more than six per season from January 2021.

Meanwhile, the UK will abolish the special immigration status for EU citizens when the post-Brexit transition period expires on 31 December, and will instead operate a points-based immigration system.

Potential migrants wishing to live and work in the UK will need to have a job offer paying a salary of at least £25,600, to be educated to A level standard and to speak English.

Football: Brexit risk puts Premier League on defensive

The possibility of Britain voting to leave the European Union in its 23 June referendum leaves the lucrative and globally popular English Premier League facing an uncertain future.

The rules for football stars will be slightly different. Under the system agreed by the English football governing bodies and signed off by the UK government, points for potential signings will be awarded for senior and youth international appearances, club appearances and the standing of the selling club. Players will then receive a “governing body endorsement” approving their signing for an English club.

Clubs will also not be able to sign overseas players until they are 18, a blow to the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City who have made a recent practice of signing teenage European stars for their youth teams and academies.

“Continuing to be able to recruit the best players will see the Premier League remain competitive and compelling,” said Premier League chief executive Richard Masters.

“The solution will complement our player development philosophy of the best foreign talent alongside the best homegrown players,” he added.

Restricting the signing of overseas players could hurt the chances of many of the UK’s top clubs.

However, the Football Association is believed to see Brexit as an opportunity to increase the chances of young homegrown players playing in the top division, in the hope that this will benefit the England national team.

Brexit could slam door on star footballers

European football’s top official fears superstar footballers with ongoing court cases, like Messi and Neymar, could be refused access to the UK after Brexit. He even indicated that European matches could be held elsewhere in a worst case scenario.

[Edited by Frédéric Simon]

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