Britain has been gripped with post-EU Referendum fall-out. Markets have panicked, the pound has fallen, and the Prime Minister has resigned. All this seems secondary when you consider the real burning issue: How will Brexit affect the Premier League.
One certainty surrounding Brexit is everything is uncertain. There’s no clear front-runner for the Tory leadership, when the fragmented state of British politics is taken into account. While many mention Boris Johnson as a likely candidate, there are those that seem to think he has too many agents working against him. Theresa May is emerging as a front-runner and she was a member of the Remain campaign.
Depending on who takes the hot-seat will shape the nature of EU negotiations. A hard line Brexiter will be less likely to concede allowances, like continued freedom of movement for access to the common market (albeit with higher tariffs and penalties). But that option is still, at this moment in time, on the table. If that was to be the outcome, all the potential scenarios about to be mentioned, are null and void.
The alternative is a phased exit from the single market, in tandem with workers’ rights from EU countries. This is where the Premier League braces itself for a paradigm shift.
The most obvious change, and one that would be immediately recognisable, is how EU players would no longer be allowed to ply their trade in the Premier League without obtaining a work permit, like players, say, from South American countries currently apply for.
Players with a work permit are viewed as exceptional and are able to enhance the league based on their international experience. The better the ranking of the nation, the less games the player needs to have featured in for the national side. For example, countries ranked in the top ten, require the player to have featured in 30% of matches or more in the last two years. Moving in blocks of ten, the appearances required rise from 45% to 60% and finally 75% respectively.
If a player is refused, they can appeal. The Home Office then take into account the size of the transfer fee. An outstanding player may come from a country blessed with world class talent, so has rarely featured on the international stage, while still being of the highest calibre. This point is backed up with the size of his contract and the weekly wage.
Also, if the player has featured in many Champions League games, it sheds favourable light on his case.
However, the Premier League cannot gain special treatment compared to other industries, inevitably the number of European-based imports would decrease if EU players became no different from nationalities based outside of this continent. Maybe there’d be several years of easing in new rules but eventually the law would be the same across the board.
At this point the star foreign players would be more expensive to acquire. That strikes fear into club owners and fans will feel their team is being ripped off. But perhaps it will be better to avoid the current Average Player Tax the league endures, bringing in filler to gain access to the rare outstanding performer. Instead clubs will pay a premium for a premium player, minus the non-descript faces.
When the Premier League was new, it managed to pull in star names. Back then they felt special as they were, to start with, one-offs. Since then it has been easier to lure the best in the world over en masse. In doing so, the league’s reputation has risen to such a degree that nothing will prevent players feeling its lure.
It isn’t about to turn into the Scottish Premier League from yesteryear, with a few massive names in a field of averageness. The money alone that the Premier League generates means it can endure any rule change to the eligibility of its workers.
The FA will see it as a blessing in disguise. The lazy scouting of top clubs, that see them take a risk on an average foreign player with an EU passport rather than look in the domestic lower leagues, will slowly draw to a halt. And current champions Leicester have demonstrated, there is talent to be found further down the leagues.
Any extra premium clubs pay for the stand-out performers will also be offset by an unexpected easing of financial burdens. Currently too many top teams are reluctant to use their youth academies. Part of this problem comes from the condition that too much choice is a bad thing. When pruned to a more manageable number, the human mind finds it easier to make correct choices.
The pruning that will take place in the academies will be the process of no longer filling them with youngsters from around the globe that either have EU citizenship or want to attain it. Instead, British players will fill the ranks. Those that are clearly the best won’t have to fight with high numbers of imports or pointless loan moves across the continent. They will be used or released.
Eventually the domestic youth talent will become good enough, and trusted, for the first team. This will save clubs millions each year on players that act as squad players.
The English national team will have greater choice of top flight players. The figure is currently less than 30% in Premier League first teams. This advantage means the FA won’t fight the Premier League’s case for special treatment.
Like much of the Brexit debate, there has been a lot of scaremongering.
Just like Britain won’t return to the dark ages following exit from the EU, the Premier League won’t lose its place as one of the top destinations in Europe for players to perform. The best in the world will still come here, and any increase in price needs to be placed into context.
The finances in the Premier League are currently grotesque, a recalibration and reconsideration of where every pound goes isn’t a bad thing. In fact, it’s long overdue. Instead of being flippant with cash, maybe owners will be mindful of bringing in only the best, remembering it’s the working man in the stands that make it possible.
The Premier League will still thrive after Brexit, don’t let big business and the establishment tell you otherwise.