Premier League brac­ing for Brexit im­pact

Calgary Herald - - SPORTS -

LON­DON Just like the politi­cians, English soc­cer is di­vided by Brexit.

With four months un­til Bri­tain with­draws from the Euro­pean Union and no con­sen­sus over the terms of the split from the bloc, there is un­cer­tainty about the play­ers Premier League clubs will be able to re­cruit.

With free move­ment of peo­ple from the Euro­pean sin­gle mar­ket to work in Bri­tain set to end, play­ers from the con­ti­nent could be­come sub­ject to the same soc­cer-spe­cific im­mi­gra­tion re­quire­ments as coun­ter­parts from the rest of the world.

After a quar­ter-cen­tury of growth, the Premier League sees main­tain­ing the free-flow­ing pipe­line of ta­lent from Europe into its clubs as es­sen­tial for main­tain­ing the ap­peal of the com­pe­ti­tion world­wide.

But the English Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion is seiz­ing on Brexit to try to en­sure play­ers el­i­gi­ble for its na­tional team gain more play­ing time in the Premier League and build on the semi­fi­nal run at this year’s World Cup in Rus­sia.

The FA runs the visa sys­tem for non-Euro­pean play­ers in con­junc­tion with the gov­ern­ment’s Home Of­fice. Un­less a deal is reached be­tween the FA and the Premier League, those el­i­gi­bil­ity re­quire­ments could ap­ply to any for­eign player after Brexit in March.

Play­ers from the top 50 FIFA na­tions are con­sid­ered for work per­mits, with a slid­ing scale of ap­pear­ances re­quired, from 30 per cent of games over two years for the 1-10 teams to 75 per cent for 31-50 teams. Ac­cord­ing to FA re­search, 65 per cent of Euro­peans cur­rently play­ing in the Premier League would have failed if the cri­te­ria were ap­plied to them.

But for play­ers who don’t meet the thresh­old, clubs can seek an ex­emp­tion by ar­gu­ing the case for a work per­mit in front of a panel. The FA hopes to per­suade the Premier League to scrap that sys­tem, known as the gov­ern­ing body el­i­gi­bil­ity en­dorse­ment.

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