Barclay’s Premier League: Is football coming home after Brexit?
Last season, for the first time in history, the finals of Europe’s top two club competitions were contested by teams from a single country—England, with the scorers including an Egyptian, a Spaniard, a Nigerian, a Frenchman and two Belgians.
So you wouldn’t exactly think that English football was struggling due to a lack of international talent.
However, yesterday Brexit secretary Steve Barclay tweeted a video claiming that, because the UK will have more control over immigration policy post-Brexit, this will mean we have more say as to where we recruit Premier League footballers from.
In the video he says we will be able to recruit players “on talent, rather than it being because they’re in Europe as opposed to the rest of the world.”
Players from the European Economic Area (EEA) can work in England with no restriction under EU freedom of movement laws, while non-EEA players have to get a work permit predicated on getting an endorsement from the FA.
The FA gives endorsements out based on whether a non-EU player plays enough for their international side, and takes into account the value of the player and wages offered.
Mr Barclay’s comments drew some confusion, because it’s not EU rules that restrict the talent pool for Premier League clubs, but the UK’s own laws restricting visas to non-EU players.
However Mr Barclay also said in the video that, alongside the desire to recruit the most talented international players, there’s also the interest (especially from the FA) to develop homegrown talent.
And here he may have more of a point. Because there are basically no restrictions on recruiting EU players, that’s had the effect of decreasing the proportion of domestic players playing at the highest level in recent decades. That (in part) led the FA to decide to impose restrictive criteria for granting visas to non-EU overseas players.
In a post-Brexit situation where EU Freedom of Movement rules no longer applied, the UK could potentially loosen visa requirements on non-EU players and increase them on EU players, meaning talent is drawn to the Premier League across the world more evenly, while retaining or even expanding opportunity for homegrown players.