The new points-based immigration system will come into force when the UK officially leaves the EU, which is expected to be 1 January 2021. All overseas players looking to join the Premier League will be subject to a points-based criterion after Britain's departure from the European Union is finalised ending freedom of movement principles.
The FA's latest accounts released in April 2020 state Brexit could have "a potential negative impact on the number of European players entering the English game which could result in a devaluation of the domestic rights of English competitions".
Currently, only players from outside of Europe have to meet specific and detailed immigration requirements in order to gain the necessary visa to begin working at their respective football clubs. Under new regulations football clubs will no longer have unrestricted ability to sign players from Europe after Brexit is completed.
How the system currently works for non-EU players?
Footballers from outside the EU must obtain a work permit if they wish to play for an English football club. Every non-EU footballer must successfully apply for a Governing Body Endorsement (GBE) with the FA before the Home Office will consider issuing a work permit.
In order to automatically qualify for a GBE, the player must have participated in a certain percentage of senior international matches for his national team. Generally, that percentage is calculated over a two-year period. However, The FA, recognising that it is more difficult for younger players to break into their senior national teams, reduce the calculation period to one year for players under the age of 21.
The required percentages of competitive senior international matches are determined by that country's FIFA World Ranking over the relevant one or two-year period is as follows:
- FIFA Ranking 1-10: 30% and above
- FIFA Ranking 11-20: 45% and above
- FIFA Ranking 21-30: 60% and above
- FIFA Ranking 31-50: 75% and above
Should a player not meet the criteria the FA's Exceptions Panel can determine whether "the player's experience and value" makes a significant contribution to the sport. The Panel is comprised of three members: a legally qualified chairperson and two independent panel members with "relevant experience at the top level of the game" The decision whether the Panel should recommend to the FA that a GBE be granted is by majority vote.
The Panel initially takes a points-based approach to determining whether the player should be granted a GBE. If the player scores four or more points against the objective Part A criteria, the Panel will then immediately move on to conduct a subjective review of the information presented by the club and another other information it deems to be relevant.
Part A – Objective Criteria
|· The transfer fee paid for the player is above the 75th percentile of qualifying transfers.||3|
|· The transfer fee paid for the player is between the 50th and 75th percentile of qualifying transfers.||2|
|· The player's wages are above the 75th percentile of qualifying wages.||3|
|· The player's wages are between the 50th and 75th percentile of qualifying wages.||2|
|· The player's current club is in a top league and the player has played in at least 30% of available minutes.||1|
|· The player's current club has played in the group stages or onwards of a continental competition within the last 12 months and the player has played in at least 30% of the available minutes.||1|
If a player scores at least five points under both the Part A and Part B criteria, the Panel may grant a GBE, but is under no obligation to do so. If a player scores fewer than five points, the Panel should refuse a GBE unless they are satisfied, through a subjective review, that the player is internationally established at the highest level and that he will make a significant contribution to the development of football at the highest level in the UK.
Part B – Objective Criteria
|· The value of the transfer fee paid for the player is within 20% of the 50th percentile of qualifying transfers.||1|
|· Players signed on a free transfer who have been ascribed a virtual transfer value (as the Panel deems appropriate in its absolute discretion) which exceeds the value which is 20% below the 50th percentile of qualifying transfers.||1|
|· The player's wages are within 20% of the 50th percentile of qualifying wages.||1|
|· The player's current club is in a secondary league and the player has played in at least 30% of available minutes.||1|
|· The player's current club has played in the final qualification rounds of a continental competition within the last 12 month and the player has played in at least 30% of the available minutes.||1|
|· The applicant club is able to show that the player has participated in the secondary percentage of senior competitive international matches during the relevant period OR the player's national association was a semi-finalist in the Asian Cup or African Cup of Nations in the twelve months prior to submitting the application for a GBE. If the player's national association is ranked outside the top 60, then the the player must have participated in at least 75% of the competitive international matches played during the relevant period.||1|
After the endorsement process?
If the FA decide to endorse a player and grant a GBE the sponsoring club are permitted to acquire a Certificate of Sponsorship, and then successfully apply for a visa with the Home Office. The FA grants two types of GBEs – those under the Tier 2 (Sportsperson) visa and those under the Tier 5 (Temporary Worker – Creative and Sporting) visa.
The difference between the Tier 2 and Tier 5 visas is the length of their validity. Under the Tier 2 visa, the length of validity is three years or the length of the player's contract, whichever is shorter. Under the Tier 5 visa, the length of validity is one year or the length of the player's contract, whichever is shorter. A Tier 2 visa will be usually be granted as long as the player is able to meet the English-language requirement set by the Home Office. Otherwise, a Tier 5 visa will be granted.
The new immigration system for EU players
The new points system will follow the current assessment for non-European players, taking into consideration international appearances, the FIFA ranking of their nation, the transfer fee being paid and the wages offered. The FA have said that it is working with other football bodies to gain approval from the Home Office to update the Governing Body Endorsement requirements that are already applied to players from outside of the European Union or European Economic Area.
Premier League clubs, like European counterparts, are currently allowed to transfer 16- and 17-year-old players between countries in the region under an exemption from FIFA regulations. But after Brexit, British clubs will only be allowed to sign foreign players over the age of 18.
As a Nottingham Forest fan I often look through the gossip columns for players the club are linked with. Looking at today's gossip column unfortunately it tends to be the Premier League clubs linked with the brightest and most talented players. Newcastle have been linked with Donny van de Beek of Ajax who is a Dutch international midfielder. Everton are chasing Columbian international James Rodriguez. Under the new immigration system from 2021 both players will need to meet the same criteria with the FA in order to gain and endorsement and the Tier 2 visa required for joining a Premier League club.
This article has been produced for general information purposes and further advice should be sought from a professional advisor. Please contact our Immigration team at Cleaver Fulton Rankin for further advice or information.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.