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Football Transfer Rules after Brexit

The new rules for recruiting football players from within the European Union (EU) take full effect from the 2021 January transfer window. This article explains the primary grounds for introducing the changes and how Brexit affects transfer deals for Premier League Clubs.

Why Have Player Transfer Rules Changed?

Now that Brexit has taken place, EU rules relating to the free movement of labour now affect clubs wanting to sign European football players.

As a result, overseas players lined up for transfers from the EU to the United Kingdom, will need a Governing Body Endorsement (GBE).

This new rule brings them in line with footballers being transferred from non European Union countries to teams in the Premier League.

Note: Another article reviews the European Union referendum wording put to voters in June 2016 (e.g. should the UK remain a member of the EU or leave).

How Do Players Qualify for Governing Body Endorsements?

The new governing body system for football transfer deals considers several key factors when judging the quality of signings from outside, and now inside, the European Union, including the,

  • Number of international caps achieved by the player.
  • FIFA ranking for the country involved in the transfer.
  • Academy where the player first developed their career.
  • Number of club appearances made by the player.
  • Relative strength of the domestic league where the player made appearances (can also include any other relevant competitions).

Note: The football rules and regulations PDF section explains more about the 17 Laws of the Game (with a free download option).

Recruiting Young Football Players after Brexit

Despite being permitted before the 1st of January 2021, the new rules ban clubs from signing EU players aged sixteen (16) to eighteen (18).

As such, FIFA granted approval to an amendment on the transfer regulations between England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland.

So, providing they are not signing minors, sixteen to eighteen year old youth players can continue making club transfers inside the United Kingdom.

You may be wondering:

Supposing a young talented teenager from one of the top European clubs fails to meet the eligibility criteria for a Governing Body Endorsement.

To address this situation, they added extra criteria for young players aged between eighteen and nineteen, such as:

  • The number of appearances made in youth competition at club and at international level.
  • How many times their name appeared on a team sheet for a football match (even if they did not actually play in the game).

Note: Some of the big soccer academies expressed concerns about the new football transfer rules after Brexit. They believe that British clubs may be at a disadvantage for recruiting young players, when compared to their European counterparts.

Further Restrictions when Signing Youth Players

Now that the UK has left the EU, clubs can only sign a maximum of three (3) under-21 players if they need to get a GBE.

Furthermore, we understand that clubs will not be able to sign more than six (6) overseas players in a single season.

Brexit’s Impact on English-Qualified Talent

First of all, the quota or allowance of homegrown players allowed to be in a full squad of 25 remains unchanged (i.e. eight).

Time will tell how the introduction of the new transfer restrictions on young EU players in the Premier League will play out. But, some suggest that the annual rise in the number of homegrown players making debuts in top flight English football clubs will continue.

When Players Move from the UK to the EU

So, how does Brexit affect players wanting to move abroad and play for a European club? Simply put, the new rules ban under eighteen-year-olds from doing so.

But, anyone over the age of eighteen would need to fulfill the rules that apply to non-EU players. As such, the criteria for this may vary in different countries.

The Conclusion?

Even though the post Brexit rule changes may restrict player transfers, there are ways for clubs to counteract some of them.

For example, some English clubs have established a partnership with teams in the European Union. Thus, they could have the partner club sign a player (e.g. under the age of 18) and then set up a move to England once they qualify.

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