In Westminster and Brussels alike, the major talking point from now until March 2019 will be about the British exit from the European Union. The bill outlining the manner in which Britain will exit the Union will be passed on the 29th of March. At the same time in England’s top tiers of football, the end of the season run will be in full force. Based on the starts of the season we will likely see Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea fighting against each other in a shootout to decide who will be crowned the champions of England for the 2018/2019 season.
This may seem as though it is a case of ‘same old same old’ or even ‘so what’, but in fact it could be the end of the English Premier League being the best Football division in the world. Due to the fact that in the now likely event of a no deal Brexit, we could see a crackdown on the availability and ease of getting work permits to operate within the UK and therefore it should not just be the bigwigs of Westminster and Brussels entertaining Brexit as the most vital of talking points but also the FA headquarters at Wembley. Currently footballers from countries in the European Union and European Economic Area (EEA) are allowed to play professionally in Britain as part of freedom of movement rules, while those from outside need work permits. After Brexit, the regulations that currently apply to those outside of the aforementioned EEA could be applied to the signing of any players from outside of the UK. Such criteria would have seen the likes of N'Golo Kante and Riyad Mahrez, who won the Premier League with Leicester City in 2015-16 and in turn captured the hearts of sports lovers worldwide. Yet the potential of a no deal Brexit that affect the signing of international players could also impact the hiring of international coaches, meaning that the leagues top three teams (Manchester City, Liverpool, and Chelsea) would have the working visas of their Spanish, German and Italian managers respectively reviewed.
A no deal Brexit would have its impacts on every team, and it could also widen the closing gap in quality that we have seen in the Premier League in the last few years. Peter Coates, the chairman of Stoke City Football Club who were recently relegated from the Premier League, said the following on the impact brexit could have on the quality gap.
‘"The big clubs might be less affected because they tend to buy at the top end, the very established best players and they meet the criteria, but we don't know," Coates also added, “Brexit uncertainty has already made it harder to sign players because the decreased value of the pound meant clubs had to spend more money in the transfer window.”
This factor is one that could feed into the idea of the quality gap as the clubs with the higher financial backing would be able to push even further ahead with post brexit regulations than they have already due to the economic situations.
In addition, current rules state that clubs in countries that are members of the European Union and European Economic Area are currently exempt from a Fifa rule that bans the transfer of players under 18 years old. However, should the UK not remain a part of the European Economic Area (EEA) after the completion of Brexit than British clubs could lose this exemption, under which notable names such as Hector Bellerin, Nathan Ake and Andreas Christensen among many others have been signed in recent years.
The most important thing to the English fan of the Premier League would be how will a potential no deal Brexit impact the growth of the ever improving national team. A bad deal could mean that England's football teams once more become hell bent on providing their own players through developing young footballers through their own academies rather than overspending and playing the eligibility waiting game on foreign stars. As a country whose senior team reached the World Cup semi-finals this year while the national Under-20 and U17 sides are world champions, a no deal Brexit could potentially lead to these young, world champions continuing to flourish. In an ideal world for England fans, it could lead to a time of English dominance on the international stage.
Looking back at these claims, the Brexit negotiations are ongoing and until they are completed there will be much freedom for people to speculate on what impact the leaving deal could have on parts of everyday life, such as this beautiful game. But, for me, the potential impacts on football mirrors what the opinions of voters were during the referendum. The ‘remainer’ wishes to express his appreciation for Guardiola’s free flowing City, Klopp’s heavy metal football and continues to pine over Chelsea’s Sarriball much like how remainers believe that we were a stronger nation through our ties with Europe. Whereas the ‘Brexiteer’s’ dream of future domination on the world stage for the English national team resembles the idea used by leave voters that we need to put the great back into Great Britain. Despite all of this, who knows what the outcome of the Brexit negotiations will be, after all we are just speculating to accumulate.