The UK government will require immigrants to qualify for a work visa in a post-Brexit world in an effort to attract “skilled workers”, and footballers will be no different.
Clubs will no longer be able to sign under-18s and will also be restricted to only three overseas signings under the age of 21, and only six foreign players per season.
New signings will require a Governing Body Endorsement (GBE) in order to move to English football. So how does it work?
What is the points system?
The GBE system is similar to the work permit non-EU overseas players have previously been required to apply for. Players will need to amass 15 qualifying points in order to receive a GBE. Points will be based on:
• 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
There is some nuance to the rules, and players who just miss the required points can apply for an exceptional approval, but broadly speaking foreign signings will be automatically approved if they have:
• Played at least 30% of fixtures for a top-10 ranked Fifa nation over the past 24 months
• Played at least 40% of fixtures for a top-20 ranked Fifa nation over the past 24 months
• Played at least 60% of fixtures for a top-30 ranked Fifa nation over the past 24 months
• Played at least 70% of fixtures for a top-50 ranked Fifa nation over the past 24 months
If this threshold isn’t met, then they need those 15 points to pass. Points can be awarded in several ways, such as for the number of international appearances the player has clocked, as well as the domestic minutes they have played (weighted higher for band-one leagues like Serie A and La Liga). For example, playing more than 90% of domestic minutes in La Liga over the past two years is worth 12 points.
Continental game time also adds points, with the Champions League being the top banded competition and therefore worth more points. For example, a player who’s played more than 90% of possible minutes in the Champions League over the past two years earns a further 10 points.
The position of their previous club in their domestic league table also adds qualifying points. For example, winning Serie A is worth six points, and finishing runner-up is worth five. Points are also awarded for their previous club’s continental progression (Champions League final = 10 points) and domestic league quality (La Liga = six points).
All of which means that in practise, any player heading to the Premier League who is a regular international is almost certain to pass, and likewise any player playing regularly in a strong league will also pass.
Those most likely to fall sort of the required points are players from a fringe league or someone who has not played much over the past two years, perhaps because of injury. Young players may also fall short if they have little professional experience – youth players have a whole separate and complex points system of their own.
The reality is while the points system will not affect star signings to the Premier League, clubs lower down the pyramid may find it difficult to bring in a player from abroad, and young players could be more difficult to sign at any level if they have not played much senior football or international youth football – it should be noted that Premier League clubs can no longer sign under-18s under the new rules. Time will tell how clubs adapt.