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02/12/2020

“From 1 January 2021, freedom of movement between the UK and EU will end and the UK will introduce an immigration system that will treat all applicants equally, regardless of where they come from. Anyone you want to recruit from outside the UK, excluding Irish citizens, will need to apply for permission first.”

This applies to all players from overseas wishing to be employed by a club in the Premier League or the EFL from 1 January 2021.

Following agreement with the Home Office the FA has today published its new criteria for the issue of a Governing Body Endorsement (GBE) which is a prerequisite for the issue of a Certificate of Sponsorship by the club which enables the player to apply for his UK work visa.

The new GBE criteria will apply in the January 2021 transfer window and will be reviewed shortly thereafter to enable any revisions to be issued in time for the summer transfer window.

The ‘Interim Governing Body Endorsement for the January 2021 Transfer Window’ adopts new criteria based on a score given for the national team the player represents, the level of the club the player is coming from and the league they are in.

For a player to be awarded a GBE he must score 15 points.

If a player meets the required percentage for senior international appearances based on his national team ranking, he will receive an ‘auto pass’ entitling him to 15 points, with a sliding scale downwards to zero points depending on team ranking and appearances made.

For players who do not reach 15 points based on international appearances additional points can be earned by reference to the level and performance of the club the player is moving from and available minutes played with that club in domestic and continental club competition.

The quality of the club is based on the league it competes in, its position and progression in continental club competitions. There are 6 league bands, for example band 1 includes the top leagues in Spain, Germany, Italy and France, band 2 Portugal, Belgium and Turkey, band 3 Brazil and Argentina, band 4 MLS, band 5 Poland and Denmark, with band 6 being all others.

There are additional criteria which apply to players under 21.

Those players can earn points for U17 – U21 international appearances in competitions such as the FIFA and UEFA European Championships and so on, with fewer points available for lower level competitions. Points are also awarded for appearances in youth leagues, the top level being the UEFA youth league and U20 Libertadores where the number of points is referenced to their club based on the club banding system.

Under the previous system, which was based on international appearances only, a club wishing to sign a player not meeting the criteria could apply to an ‘Exceptions Panel’ who considered additional subjective and objective criteria to determine whether a GBE should be issued.

The Home Office was keen to remove this process under the new regime but have relented to allow players with a score of 12-14 points to be considered by an Exceptions Panel for the January transfer window only.

What seems clear from the revised GBE process is that there will now be a level playing field for both EU and non-EU players in terms of access to UK work visas which will have an effect on the player transfer market for the future

It’s imperative that both players and clubs are familiar with the new system.

We are here to assist in that process.

Please contact our in-house sports lawyer Tim Bailey for advice.