Premier League

How footballers qualify for UK work permits following Brexit

Jan 5, 2021, 4:11 PM GMT
EU Flags In Front Of The Berlaymont
Work permit rules are changing for players from EU nations | Thierry Monasse/Getty Images

The FA has outlined the work permit requirements overseas players from the EU member states will need to meet in order to join clubs across the board in the Premier League, EFL, WSL and Women’s Championship now that the UK has officially left the European Union.

Until 1 January 2021, EU nationals did not need a visa and had the freedom to live and work in the UK, and vice versa. But that is no longer the case and the new rules would likely have prevented little-known foreign players like N’Golo Kante from being able to move to England in the past.

Ngolo Kante
N'Golo Kante could have been denied a work permit under the new rules | Malcolm Couzens/Getty Images

Government Body Endorsement

EU nationals will now be subject to the same rules as all other overseas players, who can sometimes be denied transfers to England because of red tape, and must receive a Governing Body Endorsement (GBE) to qualify - a proposal which has now been signed off by the Home Office.

A GBE will be awarded on a points-based system on the following criteria for men’s players:

  • Senior and youth international appearances
  • Quality of the selling club, based on the league they are in, league position and progression in continental competition
  • Club appearances, based on domestic league and continental competition minutes

Any player who meets the minimum points threshold will automatically be granted a GBE, which in turn will allow them to obtain the necessary work permit. Anyone who fails to gain enough points can still appeal for a GBE to the Exceptions Panel.

Bruno Fernandes
EU nationals must now meet points requirement to join clubs | Pool/Getty Images

The criteria for women’s players are similar, but will only take into account senior international appearances, nor will it look at a selling’s clubs progress in continental competition.

Signing young players

Premier League clubs in general are now limited to the number of overseas young players they can bring in during a given season. The cap on that is now three in the January transfer window and six per season going forward. Clubs are also denied the EU perk they previously enjoyed of being able to sign EU nationals from the age of 16 and cannot now sign any overseas players under 18.

That freedom previously allowed Arsenal to sign Cesc Fabregas and Hector Bellerin and Manchester United to sign Gerard Pique, Paul Pogba and, as recently as 2019, Hannibal Mejbri.

Francesc Fabregas
Arsenal could no longer sign a 16-year-old Cesc Fabregas | Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Premier League sides are already starting to feel the changes. West Brom boss Sam Allardyce has bemoaned being unable to sign three players he was targeting to improve his struggling Baggies team, seemingly lacking the self-awareness to realise he has publicly supported Brexit.

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