Brexit referendum: How football and the Premier League will be hit by Britain leaving the EU

Brexit vote: How football and the Premier League will be hit by Britain leaving the EU

24/06/2016 at 08:33Updated 24/06/2016 at 11:55

The people of Britain have voted to leave the European Union by a margin of 52%-48%, throwing the world into turmoil - and football will not escape unscathed.

Wenger was also a co-signatory of an open letter in the TLS warning of the dangers of Brexit: "We would like to express how very much we value having the UK in the EU. It is not just treaties that join us to your country, but bonds of admiration and affection. All of us hope that you will vote to renew them. Britain, please stay."

Those please fell on deaf ears as Britons - or at least English and Welsh peoples, given that Scotland and Northern Ireland voted overwhelmingly to stay in - decided to leave the European Union.

Negotiations to leave the EU will take several years, with a date of 2019 or 2020 touted before the vote as the actual date that Britain actually cuts ties.

Some impacts won't be felt until then; others will bite immediately - and there are also fears which can be allayed completely. Membership of the EU has nothing to do with UEFA, for example, so England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland can all take part in European competition, both at club and international level.

Here's our best guess about what will happen - though do bear in mind that any of the below, particularly the rules on work permits, could be subject to change given sufficient lobbying by the Premier League as it scrabbles to keep its financial preeminence.


FOOTBALL EurosEurosport

Footballers will cost more for British clubs, and less for overseas clubs

With the value of the pound falling dramatically on the news, British clubs will effectively have to pay a premium of 10% if they are to compete with other clubs around the world in terms of transfer fees and wages. While the top-earning clubs will not be affected, clubs further down the food chain will suffer serious consequences.

That shift in football economics will cut both ways. Will we see more Premier League-based players poached by top clubs on the continent? Almost certainly.

Youth academies no longer free to take their pick of European talent

Right now, players are happy to come to England - not just for the Premier League, but for the quality of life in fine cities such as London and Manchester, and the ease with which family and friends can join them.

All that will come to an end. And while the idea that Mario Balotelli's entourage might not have been able to help undermine his time at Manchester City and Liverpool is a compelling one, it will make it much harder to persuade young talent to come to this country.

Balotelli - City - Why always me ?

Balotelli - City - Why always me ? AFP

Family ties cut for young prospects, even when eligible

Under current rules, it's very easy for young players from across Europe to join academies at British clubs - the aforementioned Pogba, for example, came through Manchester United's youth scheme.

How many of those players will still be permitted to come to Britain? How many will want to, given that ambitious parents will no longer be able to find work or even have the right to live on UK shores?

Paul Pogba in action for Manchester United in 2012

Paul Pogba in action for Manchester United in 2012Imago

When players are arriving in their mid-20s they'll probably settle in without much trouble; if they're 18 or 19, and suddenly don't have their mums around any more to help sort out their lives, the decision to come to England - even where and when allowed - might see far scarier and less attractive.

And 18 or 19 will be the youngest age that players will be able to arrive now: under FIFA rules, international transfers for under-18s are banned; European legislation has meant that these rules don't apply within the EU. British clubs will no longer benefit from that loophole.

Top players - particularly young players - will need work permits

The freedom of movement and employment principle within Europe has made it straightforward for British football clubs to sign young prospects from across the EU. The Telegraph has reported that over 100 Premier League players would have failed to gain a work permit, based on current Home Office rules.

Once the Brexit has gone through, however, players will be subject to the same rules on working in Britain as non-EU imports currently face: they must be regular internationals, defined as having played in 75% of competitive national team games over the past couple of years.

There is an appeals process for those who fail to meet that standard. Big clubs like Chelsea or Liverpool who have signed highly-promising young Brazilians in recent years tend to win those appeals thanks to a clause which allows exceptions for the outstandingly talented.

Would Cristiano Ronaldo still have been granted a work permit when he first arrived from Portugal as a teenager? Maybe, maybe not. But the fact that he'd have faced a wrangle to get one would surely have made it easier for him to have taken up a rival offer.

Manchester United-era Cristiano Ronaldo

Manchester United-era Cristiano RonaldoReuters

The players who'd never have lit up the Premier League

The likes of Anthony Martial will probably still be waved through at Dover or Heathrow once new rules kick in: there's a sense that if Manchester United want a young player with a bright future, they will automatically be considered good enough to get the 'outstanding talent' status.

But the same will not apply to lesser-known players from smaller clubs, particularly those who flower late.

Take Leicester City's N'Golo Kante, for example: he was a critical part of Claudio Ranieri's title-winning team last season, but had almost never been heard of beforehand.

Dimitri Payet is another prime example. At the age of 29 he is now an established first-choice player for France, and one of the stars of Euro 2016 so far. But before his transfer to West Ham last year he had played just a few times for his country; given his relatively advanced years, he is exactly the sort of player who wouldn't get a permit.

France's forward Dimitri Payet reacts

France's forward Dimitri Payet reacts AFP

Fans to be hit in the pocket

Even dedicated 'Leave' campaigners admit that potential economic benefits from leaving the EU will take a long time - i.e. years to materialise. But the falling pound, potentially rising interest rates and probable recession triggered by the vote on June 23rd will make travelling to football matches more expensive - fuel alone, whose price is based on the now-soaring dollar, is set to become 10% more expensive. Simple economics states that such a rise will lead to a drop in attendance.

While Premier League clubs will be insulated from lower attendance figures thanks to the TV deal, lower league clubs could end up in serious trouble. The harsh reality is that many small clubs are already struggling to stay afloat; we're likely to see more of them going out of business.

Terraces at a football ground

Terraces at a football groundPA Photos

On the plus side...

All that said, there is a potential upside for British football: without the ability to rely on foreign talent, we will have to trust more in homegrown players. And while many figures inside football - Richard Scudamore and Karren Brady among them - pointed to this as a reason to stay in Europe, some have argued the exact opposite.

Sol Campbell, for example, claimed recently that he was backing the Brexit because he believes it will help more young British talent to come through and be given a chance to shine:

Many pundits have even blamed the woes of England's national team on exactly this phenomenon. And maybe they're right: the Premier League's loss might be the English national team's gain.

England's national soccer team captain Bobby Moore holds aloft the Jules Rimet trophy as he is carried by his teammates following England's victory over Germany (4-2 in extra time) in the World Cup final 30 July 1966 at Wembley stadium in London

England's national soccer team captain Bobby Moore holds aloft the Jules Rimet trophy as he is carried by his teammates following England's victory over Germany (4-2 in extra time) in the World Cup final 30 July 1966 at Wembley stadium in LondonAFP