The new immigration rules have been confirmed meaning that players from European Union countries will not be allowed to be signed without a work permit while foreign players under the age of 18 cannot be bought at all as part of post-Brexit regulations. The impact of these changes will mean Premier League clubs will have to wait to secure the services of top young talent from abroad. The new framework sets out the criteria for clubs to sign overseas players when the UK leaves the European Union after 31 December 2020.

Post-Brexit, players from EU countries will be required to gain a GBE (Governing Body Endorsement) like all other overseas players to satisfy right to work requirements in the UK.  A joint-statement issued by the FA, Premier League and EFL reads "Post Brexit, clubs will not be able to sign players freely from the EU. Players from EU countries who want to play in the Premier League or EFL will be required to gain a GBE, like all other overseas players without the right to work in the UK."

The GBE will operate a points-based system, where points are allocated for senior and talented young players. If a player obtains 15 points, they will earn a GBE based on the following criteria:

  • Senior and youth international appearances;
  • Quality of the selling club, based on the league they are in, league position and progression in continental competition;
  • Club appearances, based on domestic league and continental competition minutes.

The Football Association, the Premier League and the English Football League submitted a Governing Body Endorsement (GBE) proposal last month, which has now been approved by the Home Office. Players accumulating the required amount of points will earn a GBE automatically, while players just below the threshold may be considered for a GBE by an Exceptions Panel (EP). The EP will be made up of "football people" from different stakeholders in the game who will assess the application made by the player. The player must be classed as of "the highest quality" to be granted a GBE.  If a player earns between 10-14 points, his case will automatically be sent to the EP for consideration.

There are also new limitations on signing players aged 21 or under. In the Premier League, the number of overseas U21 players a club can sign will be limited to three in the January transfer window and six per season moving forwards. This enables the recruitment of the best players from around the world to train and play together with home-grown talent.

Under FIFA's rules, the UK's exit from the EU will also mean that clubs will not be able to sign players from overseas until they are 18. This will no doubts have a significant impact on the likes of Manchester City and Chelsea who recruit several young players across Europe every season. One benefit for the likes of my club, Nottingham Forest in the EFL, is that the Premier League sides may be forced to shop closer to home for talented young players. This could raise the prices for young players in the EFL and provide greater post-COVID sustainability to these clubs.

The FA has also proposed to use Brexit to amend the "homegrown" rule and reduce the number of foreign players permitted in Premier League squads post-Brexit. The FA is eager to reduce the number of non-homegrown players allowed in a squad from 17 to 13. This is likely to culminate in strong resistance from the Premier League who will fight to maintain its standards on quality through the admission of foreign players to England's top flight. Although FA chief executive Mark Bullingham played down any difference of opinion: "despite having different starting perspectives on how Brexit should impact football, this is another example of how the football authorities can work effectively together for the greater good of the game."

Under the new regulations, the likes of Paul Pogba, Hector Bellerin and Eric Garcia would not have been eligible to be signed by their respective clubs until they reached 18 years of age. Perhaps those transfers would never have happened? Female sides will also be held to a similar model, although international youth team appearances will not be taken into account under the current guidelines.

Post-Brexit immigration will undoubtedly impact the world of football transfers involving the Premier League. With the latest changes now implemented, clubs will need to prepare and adapt for the new challenges ahead deploying different transfer strategies moving forward for player recruitment. Something Jürgen Klopp is not a fan of "I am still waiting for the first advantage of Brexit that someone can tell me?"

This article has been produced for general information purposes and further advice should be sought from a professional advisor. Please contact our Business and Private Immigration team at Cleaver Fulton Rankin for further advice or information.

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