To Brexit or not to Brexit? That is the question. While the government has spent millions trying to convince the public that we should stay in the EU and the Leave Campaign has countered with a powerful voice advancing the case for Brexit, it has left many wondering: what will this mean for football?
The established European principle of free movement of people allows European footballers to play in England without satisfying the rigid 'work permit' rules set by the FA that non-EU footballers must meet to be eligible to move to the UK.
In the event of Brexit, it is unlikely that the Home Office will apply any new rules retrospectively, meaning that non-EU footballers already playing in the UK would remain eligible to play, at least for the first few years. Any new rules are unlikely to come into effect until a specified date in the future - at least a year after an 'out' decision. As such, we will not see any immediate repercussions and it is difficult to say what the full fall-out of Brexit would mean for the long-term future of English football. We do know, however, that the new rules would affect incoming players.
Regardless of the outcome of the referendum, the current visa criteria through which most footballers enter the UK is restrictive – as outlined below – and has the potential to exclude exceptional talent. For example, the next Dmitri Payet or N'Golo Kante - who have lit up the Premier League despite not being regulars for the French national team - would not be eligible to play in the UK under these rules.
This is the ideal opportunity for the FA to reassess its immigration position.
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