November 15 – With Brexit deals for the formal separation of the UK from Europe in full debate, the English Football Association (FA) has entered the fray with a proposal to cut the number of foreign players in Premier League squads.
The measures, which are being put to clubs this week and which are seen as a way to give more opportunity to home-grown talent, would see the overall squad total of foreign players reduced from 17 to 12.
If the clubs do not agree, they could face a Brexit-style “no-deal” scenario in which all EU players would have to fulfil the same criteria that non-EU players do now in order to get a work permit.
English football authorities have long insisted they wanted to make the most of the opportunity presented by Brexit to increase the number of home-grown players coming through at top-flight level. The percentage of eligible English players in the Premier League has dropped to around 30%. Currently 13 Premier League clubs have more than 12 overseas players in their first team squads.
But such a cut in the overseas quota would significantly alter the composition of many clubs including big-spending Manchester City who have the maximum number (17) of foreign players. A further four clubs have 16 non-home-grown players on their rosters.
Gordon Taylor, chief executive of the Professional Footballers’ Association, told Sky News a reduction in the number of overseas players could help the home nations succeed in major tournaments. But as with all changes set to come in after Britain leaves the EU, any plans would be subject to a transition period until at least the end of 2020.
The quota proposal would likely have the impact of increasing the domestic value of English players in the transfer market while putting more club emphasis on academy development.
Andrew Osborne, partner at law firm Lewis Silkin, also warned that the quota proposal differs from current immigration practices: “The offer of a quota is completely at odds with the rest of the immigration system which requires employers to only sponsor workers at certain salary levels and to have academic qualifications or skills. Non-football employers do not have freedom to recruit who they want subject to a numerical limit and it will be interesting to see if any other industries demand freedom to recruit within a quota,” he said.
“Will the freedom to recruit widen the gulf between the Premier League and Championship, who will still be restricted in terms of the players they can employ? This is also an issue footballing authorities should pay attention to.”
“In effect the FA are offering the Premier League clubs a quota of non-home grown players and the removal of any quality control on those players beyond them taking up a quota slot in the club squad. From the proposals, it looks like if a player has a contract he will be granted a Governing Body Endorsement and given permission to play in England. This is very different to the current system that requires clubs to show a player is of the highest quality either through international appearances for a leading football nation or through his market value in terms of transfer fee and wages,” he continued.
“There will be a lot of focus on what exactly constitutes “home grown” and I am sure clubs will look at ways to increase the pool of players that fall into this category and outside of the quota.”
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