The UK Premier League is a dominant global brand, one whose wealth towers over that of its main European rivals. But with Brexit, comes the risk of losing access to the international player market which has been the main driver for them laying claim to be ‘the best league in the world.’
The Premier League has already felt the effects since the UK chose to leave the European Union, with the British pounds sharp decline resulting in English clubs paying more in transfer fees and wages to match clubs across the channel.
A large amount of the Premier League’s revenue also comes from lucrative overseas broadcast deals. All 20 clubs take a cut from these international media rights agreements, which are estimated to be worth £3 billion in total. It was reported earlier this year that the League had announced a £312 million pre-tax loss with new accounting rules and the cost of Brexit taking the blame.
Does the UK’s decision to leave the EU mean that more British players will have the chance to play in the Premier League, and will European sourced players lose access to play for English teams? This depends widely on whether domestic UK clubs chose to swallow the increased cost of high level international players or give more opportunity to British footballers.
The FA has previously expressed its aims to have more British players at the top of the league, yet European labour laws have long thwarted their efforts. However, fears of post Brexit restrictions on immigration has seen a sharp increase in the premium of young British players who have recently entered the Premier League.
Another area where the league is vulnerable is within its coaching, with only nine out of the twenty current Premier League managers being British. As a group, they are underperforming against the league’s top seven clubs which are subsequently managed by foreign nationals.
When it comes to players, British football runs at a staggering trade deficit. Joe Hart, Manchester City’s goalkeeper who was previously on loan to Italy’s Torino, was at that time, the only top level English player on the continent. By comparison, among the 647 players who appeared in the Premier League last season, more than half were classified as non-British with the majority, 208 being from the EU.
Now, EU players have the freedom to participate in British football, while non-EU players must apply for a work permit to be part of the Premier League. As negotiations continue the latest issue to arise is that of work permit requirements for EU nationals looking to play for UK teams.
The post Brexit work permit regulations will have a dramatic impact on English football, both domestic and international, as well as the wider global football landscape. This comes amidst the natural conflict between the Premier League and Football Association.
The FA is primarily focused on ensuring England’s success at an international level, suffice to say it has a vested interest in ensuring English players thrive in the Premier League. The flipside of the coin see’s Premier League clubs focused on building the strongest possible squads, so to succeed in what is a fiercely competitive and financially lucrative league, regardless of nationality.
With the UK currently scheduled to leave the EU by March of 2019, The FA will almost certainly attempt to use Brexit to create more opportunity for English players by restricting opportunities for EU and EEA footballers looking to play for English teams. This will very likely be met with opposition from the Premier League, who naturally want to cast the widest net to capture talented players.
Executives from both the FA and Premier League have publicly requested the Government for very different football specific concessions to help achieve their different goals. However, unless footballers are given a ‘highly skilled worker’ classification it remains difficult to envision a realistic scenario in which there will be a blanket exemption to post Brexit immigration policies for EU footballers.
Ultimately, all these potential restrictions have the ability to inflate costs and compromise the Premier League’s global competitiveness.
Brexit has seen many businesses both large and small suffer and football is no different. Increased costs, uncertainty surrounding trade agreements and the ability to employ skilled foreign nationals are just some of the difficult issues set out.
Indigo FX is working hard to ensure our clients can make the right decisions with your overseas business transactions so that you get the best results in these difficult conditions.