The pandemic has a significant effect on the transfer market and where English clubs are concerned, Brexit threatens to have its own impact on clubs dealings
Back in January, with Premier League clubs still struggling to come to terms with the economic impact of Covid-19, the purse strings were tightened and the rumour mill came to a grinding halt in what proved to be the most uneventful midseason transfer window on record.
Indeed, throughout the entire English top flight, there was a total of just 26 signings – down almost 50% from the previous year – with clubs sticking with the squads they have rather than forking out on new players during these dark and turbulent times.
With such a large chunk of revenue lost due to a lack of ticket sales, it was no surprise to see clubs adopt a more frugal approach as they try and weather this seemingly never-ending financial storm.
But in addition to the economic uncertainty caused by the pandemic, is there another reason why clubs failed to recruit new players in? Something to do with that dreaded B-word, perhaps!
Brexit Transfer Chaos
While we were all busy wondering what impact Brexit would have on the economy, few of us stopped to consider the effect leaving the EU would have on our transfer market. Now, the realities of our withdrawal and what that means for football transfers are starting to hit home; moving forward, the ramifications could be severe.
When MPs and representatives were in parliament haggling over a withdrawal deal, much of the focus centred around the trade of goods between Britain and the rest of Europe. But, as the negotiating rumbled on for what seemed like an eternity, one area that was never really given a second thought – at least by most – was the trade of professional footballers.
But, following our split from the union on 1 January, it now looks as though Brexit is set to complicate matters for managers looking to recruit from the continent – some of whom apparently had no idea they were about to face such issues.
Take our former manager, Sam Allardyce, for example. Big Sam – now in charge of struggling West Brom – has been consistently vocal about his dislike for the European Union. When asked how he’d voted in 2016’s referendum, Allardyce was emphatic in his response.
“I am out,” Allardyce told the Sun newspaper a couple of years back. “My feeling is that the European Union isn’t doing the United Kingdom any favours.”
But, after getting his wish and seeing the country formally leave the trading bloc in January, Allardyce got more than he bargained for with the new rules put in place torpedoing much of his transfer business.
“I have found three players already who were capable of coming here and were not allowed,” he said last month. “It’s a shame. Due to new regulations in terms of the permit, they were unable to come to this country, whereas previously they would have done. I have to look at that and think ‘can he qualify?’”
Whoever would’ve thought cutting ties with the EU – the trading bloc of which you’ve been a member of for almost 50 years, which was set up purely to make dealing with the rest of the continent easier – would lead to more red tape and make the recruitment of European players less straight-forward? Not Allardyce, by the looks of it!
Changes to the Rules
While Allardyce didn’t go into specifics about why the transfers in question failed to materialise, the new rules stipulate that every player coming to the UK from Europe must now have a work permit.
The work permits are granted on a points-based system, and a panel takes into consideration a range of factors including club appearances, international caps (senior or youth) and the quality of the selling club. If the player meets the criteria, he’ll be granted a GBE (Government Body Endorsement) and the transfer will be complete. If not, the deal’s off and the manager will have to look elsewhere.
It’s likely Allardyce’s targets didn’t fit the standard now required, which meant the former England boss missed out on the recruits he badly needs to help his struggling West Brom side avoid relegation.
Ban on U-18 internationals
There’s also the possibility one or more of the players Allardyce was targeting was an Under-18 international, which is now banned altogether under new rules agreed by the Premier League, Football League, FA and UK government. The new rules were put in place to aid the development of homegrown talent and prevent British players being frozen out at academy level, and this could be the one shining light that emerges from Brexit.
With less competition from abroad, youngsters will now get more of a look-in, which governing bodies hope will gradually result in the cultivation of better British players, eventually translating to more success at international level.
For years, England’s failures have been put down to the Premier League’s overreliance on foreign imports; so, with more now being done to produce world class talent in our academies, could it be just a matter of time before we finally end the near-60-year-long wait and lift some silverware at long last? We certainly hope so!
Another potential upside is the possibility of an influx of South Americans to English football. James and Allan – two players who have enjoyed successful debut seasons at Goodison Park – are both prime examples of the quality South American players can bring to the Premier League, and those who like to see the silky technical ability that’s practically coded into the DNA of many of these players from Latin America might be in for a treat, with managers forced to shop elsewhere now that purchasing players from Europe has become problematic.
When the Brexit debate was doing the rounds, few anticipated the impact it would have on the transfer of football players to and from Europe. But now the withdrawal has been finalised, it’s becoming clear things are changing for good and, while there may be some good to come from the decision, for managers of British clubs looking to raid the European transfer market to sign new recruits, things are about to get much more complex.
Just ask Big Sam.
This post was written by Darryl Rigby, Content Executive at the Immigration Advice Service
Reader Comments (22)
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1 Posted 22/03/2021 at 17:48:22
What has happened over the past 25 years or so is that foreign players have raised the standard of our game, with the knock-on effect that homegrown players have needed to match that higher standard in order to make it in the Premier League.
Hence the current England manager has the luxury of many more high-quality players in his squad, including those from several clubs which regularly compete in the latter stages of the Champions League. Contrast that with the situation in the early 1990s when the small pool of talent permitted players as limited as Carlton Palmer to gain an England cap.
It will be interesting to see what if any impact Brexit has on the recruitment of managers...
2 Posted 22/03/2021 at 20:35:30
3 Posted 22/03/2021 at 20:52:58
4 Posted 22/03/2021 at 22:23:20
"What has happened over the past 25 years or so is that foreign players have raised the standard of our game"
I don't think I've ever disagreed with a notion so much. Where are the domestic equivalents to Best, Law, Charlton, Ball, Kendall, Harvey, Bremner, Giles, Osgood, Bell, Summerbee, Curry, Hudson etc etc?
5 Posted 23/03/2021 at 00:16:44
6 Posted 23/03/2021 at 15:07:26
I believe the current crop of players such as Rice, Reece James, Saka, Foden and Mount will prove their quality in the not too distant future, helped rather than hindered by the presence alongside them of top quality players from abroad.
7 Posted 23/03/2021 at 21:33:00
Agree with the sentiment Barry. English / British football has not been producing for many decades; way before the influx of foreign players who I feel add to our game.
The proof is in the international game. England has done nothing since 1966 bar celebrating semi final "victories". Scotland has become insignificant and Wales had a good tournament that made Ashley Williams an attractive prospective signing. Hats off to Northern Ireland 1982!
8 Posted 23/03/2021 at 22:35:39
9 Posted 23/03/2021 at 23:35:53
What could possibly go wrong?
10 Posted 24/03/2021 at 13:41:05
If the EU cannot sell in volume to the UK then it might crash the prices amongst the EU. Who knows.
It reinforces the idea that we should invest more in our own talent. That is something I'm keen we do for a variety of reasons but it can take years to bear fruit.
Maybe we look beyond the EU altogether? The volume of young talent emerging from the US is very impressive. Maybe that's a natural development - and partner clubs over there (informal or even formal) can be a good stepping stone for S. American players too. Somewhere to acquire the work permit before moving to these shores? There will be an Onyekuru risk - but we managed to shift Onyekuru fairly easily.
A good post-Brexit strategy could just be the thing to steal us a march on the opposition, or at least help make us more competitive.
11 Posted 24/03/2021 at 14:03:10
And these players would be much, much less expensive than English prospects of the same age and potential.
12 Posted 24/03/2021 at 14:21:59
What I don't know is where the talent in the US is being nurtured if not in academies. The US could currently put out an U23s team that would give any other country a run for its money in that age range. So where are these kids learning the ropes?
13 Posted 24/03/2021 at 15:19:11
The young US talent is either jumping straight up into MLS or taking off at age 14 for the European academies. Snagging teenagers off the MLS rosters is what I advocate for us. The best player on our current U23s is Sebastian Soto, 20, who signed with an MLS youth club at 15, left for the Hannover academy at 17, and was signed by Norwich City last summer. We need to step in somewhere during that process, not try to find nuggets among the mud of the US academies.
14 Posted 24/03/2021 at 16:34:31
Secondly, we can look at other markets; the North American one in particular interests me as the Bundesliga certainly have an eye on that one. Mike gave some feedback on another thread and has here too, but definitely something I would like Everton to tap into.
Thirdly, we actually invest in grass roots here. Not give our current crop of academy produced kids who have come from a sub-standard system a go. I mean overhaul from the bottom up and revolutionise youth football in this country. That's not a quick fix, that's a longer-term strategy.
15 Posted 24/03/2021 at 17:13:18
You're right though Danny, we will cope and there will still be transfers with the EU. The complications come with the work permits I guess. That will probably evolve but for the time being its more complicated to pick up players from France etc than it was.
16 Posted 24/03/2021 at 17:38:43
So any good young players from Africa and South America are still out of Everton's reach if they are just starting their careers.
These young type of players seem to end up in EU countries, who have no problems with home office rules.
17 Posted 24/03/2021 at 17:39:14
Some of the MLS prospects I'd love to see us pursue right now, before the Euro clubs get in on them, would be Caden Clark, Gianluca Busio and Paxton Pomykal. Remember those names. You'll see 'em in the summer transfers. Hopefully to us.
18 Posted 24/03/2021 at 18:24:22
There is also an interesting cultural and linguistic dynamic. Traditionally, the South Americans go to Portugal and Spain. North Africans to France and Croatians typically to Italy (geographically) or Germany (historical alliance / relationship).
19 Posted 24/03/2021 at 18:30:05
20 Posted 25/03/2021 at 19:19:51
I was talking to a Export Manager this week, she said that she had did everything possible to prepare for Brexit, but found in practise that the situations she now faces where unpreparable for. Work Permits where a thorny issue before Brexit.
21 Posted 26/03/2021 at 12:45:50
22 Posted 03/04/2021 at 17:51:00
That also makes it more economical to develop home grown players, but unless we see a decrease in the quality of our football, it won't necessarily make it easier for clubs to play them at first team level.
Whether we sign less players will be dependant on the attitudes within government. We will be a third party country to the EU so that will complicate deals to some degree perhaps (although they are already complicated already as I understand), but will leave deals to sign players from non-EU countries as they were. As noted above, the only reason that would change is if the government decided to change it.
I would imagine that the government would quite like to restrict the number of foreign players. They seem quite keen on a 1950's view of England, and I can confidently predict the revival of jumpers for goalposts, the birch, and limit of foreign players within squads. If nothing else it will distract people from the rising levels of unemployment.
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