Over recent years football has seen a steady increase in the number of foreign players moving to the top European leagues.

Historically, this stemmed from the 1995 Bosman ruling which gave players the right to leave at the end of their contracts for no transfer fee. Added to this are the huge financial rewards now being offered by those leagues to the best players from around the world.

Since 1985 the percentage of non-domestic players in the top five European leagues has risen from 9% to 47%, no more so than in the Premier League where 66% of the players are from foreign shores.

Unsurprisingly, 75% of the current Chelsea squad and 69% of the Manchester City squad were recruited from abroad

As we know EU law allows citizens the freedom to be employed in other member states without the need for complex visa requirements.

With the possibility of the UK facing an exit from the EU what effect could this have on the Premier League?

According to Karren Brady, speaking on behalf of the Britain Stronger in Europe campaign, leaving the EU will have “devastating consequences” She has already written to club owners and chief executives with a warning to this effect!

The Premier League’s public position is that EU membership is a matter for voters and it always works with “the government of the day”!

Currently, a non-EU player must meet criteria agreed by the FA with the Home Office meaning that a player must be “an elite player who is internationally established at the highest level …..” playing for a national team having an aggregate FIFA ranking in the top 50

Any future requirement to obtain work visas could affect over 100 EU players currently playing in the Premier League who are unlikely to meet this standard.

Newcastle United, Watford and Aston Villa could all lose 11 players!

The possibility of employment contracts being cancelled and EU players having to meet the existing work visa criteria is unlikely.

The exit process will be lengthy, with the UK involved in protracted negotiations in all areas to secure the best deal which will no doubt include concessions to continue to allow the movement of EU workers to the UK, albeit with some restrictions, perhaps on quotas.

Fewer overseas players may have its benefits, allowing more homegrown players to progress, gain experience, make the first team squad earlier which could ultimately improve the quality of the national team. In the long term, this may force clubs to focus more on our own talent.

On the other hand a smaller number of overseas players in the Premier League could reduce its worldwide appeal and thus its value to broadcasters when the current deal with Sky and BT comes up for renewal, leading to less money being available for recruiting the best players and possibly a reduction in the value of clubs to investors.

We will see no immediate change following any exit from the EU to the make-up of Premier League squads in the short term, but in all likelihood a revision of the immigration regulations specific to EU citizens, or a relaxing of the current FA criteria for all overseas players, which in the future could have an impact and even increase the number of players coming to the UK.

For further information please contact Tim Bailey at Beswicks Sports on 01782 200109 or tim.bailey@beswicks.com