The recent ground-breaking referendum which resulted in the United Kingdom voting to leave the European Union has left the UK in a period of extreme uncertainty. The decision to leave could potentially have far-reaching consequences for the top tier of English football both in terms of the influx of European players into the Premier League and the prices paid by English clubs for such players.
Over the last few years we have seen the Premier League establish itself as arguably the top league in Europe both in terms of financial revenues and the quality of players attracted. In reality, as with most industries and commercial sectors following the EU exit, we are facing a period of extensive uncertainty in terms of assessing what the true effect will be for English football.
The current statistics illustrate that, as at last season, a total of 432 European players were registered to play in the Premier League. Currently, players with an EU passport are free to work in Britain without the requirement of a work permit. This regulation allows English clubs to readily sign young players from the continent. This situation is likely to change following the UK’s recent decision to exit the European Union. It does however remain to be seen how long such changes will take to come into effect. It is possible that European players seeking to come to the Premier League will now be subjected to the same immigration requirements as non-EU players. The current regulations in relation to non-EU players stipulate that players from a FIFA top-ten ranked nation must have played in at least 30% of that nation’s games in the two year period prior to the date of the work permit application. There is a further sliding-scale for lower ranked nations with a higher percentage of games being required in respect of such players. If we hadn’t been in the EU at the relevant time, such regulations relating to non-EU players would have prevented the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Thierry Henry from coming to the Premier League at such a young age as they would not have featured in the requisite number of games for their respective countries.
The suggestion at this stage is that EU players may still retain some form of “favoured status” in respect of transfers to the Premier League meaning that it will remain easier for English clubs to sign such players but, in reality, the element of uncertainty still remains. The EU exit could however prove favourable for advocates of the use of home-grown talent in the Premier League as clubs may now be more inclined to more readily utilise such players and further invest in the youth infrastructure instead of searching for talent on the continent.
There is also a strong likelihood that Premier League clubs will face inflated transfer fees when purchasing players from Europe as the value of the pound fell dramatically following the 23d June referendum. This means that Premier League clubs will have to pay greater prices when signing talent from European clubs due to the pound to euro exchange rate. In reality, the full effects remain to be seen and it is likely to take up to two years for the true implications to be realised. For this moment in time it is very much a case of watch this space for what is arguably the most lucrative league in European football.
Here at Farleys we have a dedicated team of specialist sports lawyers who regularly advise Premier League footballers, clubs and agents on transfers and contractual issues. If you have been affected by any of the above or wish to speak with one of our expert solicitors in more detail then do not hesitate to contact us today.