FA threatens to block signings of non-international EU players unless homegrown protection is introduced

Ben Rumsby
·3-min read
Greg Clarke - Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images
Greg Clarke - Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images

The Football Association has threatened to ensure English clubs are blocked from signing non-internationals from European Union countries next week unless Premier League sides agree to introduce rules protecting homegrown talent post-Brexit.

In an ultimatum aimed at breaking the deadlock over rules governing the granting of work permits to overseas signings after Britain leaves the EU, FA chairman Greg Clarke has written to the 20 members of the world’s richest league warning that, unless they back down, “the current system for non-Europeans will apply to everyone and that would be hugely restrictive for clubs’ access to players”.

The FA must submit to Government its recommended model for post-Brexit rules relating to the signing of overseas players by the end of next week, ready for January.

It and the Premier League have been at loggerheads over that model for more than four years, with the former wanting to increase game time for England-qualified players and the latter wanting more access to foreign talent.

Clarke wrote in his letter: “If we are unable to agree any new changes, we will submit our current system to the Home Office for implementation in the January transfer window. We simply can’t agree to changes that could, if unchecked, destroy the pipeline of talent for the England teams.”

Under the existing rules, non-EU players need to have played between 30 per cent and 75 per cent of their country’s international matches over a fixed period, depending on the nation’s Fifa ranking.

The FA has proposed a detailed points system to determine if prospective foreign signings can receive a governing body endorsement (GBE) to play in Britain, under which points would be awarded for a variety of criteria including transfer fee, wages, club appearances - related to the club’s performance - as well as youth and full international appearances.

Clarke’s letter states that the Premier League wants such players to receive points for their club’s performance even if they have not played a game themselves.

“The Home Office is quite clear that a player must play to get points so this will simply not be possible,” he wrote.

“[The league] has also requested we include substantial points scored for youth internationals; but the Home Office is not supportive as these players are not internationally established at the highest level. For example, in the proposal a single youth international appearance [for a leading European country] would give the same points as Mohamed Salah receives for his entire Egypt career. That will not be accepted by government.”

He added: “Overall the changes that are requested to our model relate predominantly to young, unproven players and would have virtually no impact on first-team signings.

 “We appreciate that there could be cost savings for clubs in being able to sign players before they are established, if they then develop to valuable assets, but we believe that providing the additional access requested would have a detrimental effect on the development of homegrown players. These changes would create the risk of the market being flooded by unproven talent, which is exactly what the GBE is designed to prevent.

“Let me be frank. This is predominately a trade-off between the economic benefits to the Premier League of being able to sign young players from around the globe cheaply before they establish their reputations, set against developing local young players and providing them the chance to play elite level football.

“We have consistently said that we would be willing to lobby government to provide you with additional access to unproven talent if league safeguards could be put in place which ensure the development of and opportunities for young homegrown talent, but no relevant safeguards have been offered to us in two years of discussions.

“If we are unable to agree any new changes, we will submit our current system to the Home Office for implementation in the January transfer window. We simply can’t agree to changes that could, if unchecked, destroy the pipeline of talent for the England teams.”