The country is building towards one of the most important referendums in recent history. The political landscape would change significantly if the Brexit campaign is successful and Britain does leave the European Union. An interesting article from the BBC looks into how an EU exit would affect the Premier League and it makes for concerning reading for the those that run the league. It would see over 100 Premier League players lose the right to play in England, as players from Europe would have to meet the same work permit requirements that apply to those from other continents. Although this is a hypothetical situation at the moment, plans need to be made in case Britain do leave the EU.
The current work permit requirements are that players must have featured in a certain percentage of the international matches over the last two years. This percentage increases the higher up a nation is in the Fifa World Rankings, with a player from a top ten nation needing to have played in at least 30% of the matches. Meanwhile, a player from a nation ranked between 31-50 needs to have featured in at least 75% of his countries’ internationals. The headline names to have failed to meet this criteria are Dimitri Payet and N’Golo Kante, both of whom have been revelations this season.
If this does indeed happen, it could have a positive effect on the English national side, as fewer European players would be joining the league. This would lead to a greater desire for clubs to develop their own players, and the English premium would rise to an all time high. Although the current registration rules dictate that clubs must have a certain amount of English players in their squad, Brexit would make it a necessity for clubs to invest heavily in their academies. This would only lead to a greater number of homegrown players, while the quality would also be significantly higher than it is now, as youth coaching would become prominent in the sport.
The smaller nations in Europe have shown in recent years that it is possible to develop lots of young players ready to dominate the top leagues on the continent. The current Belgian side is a result of the Jupiler League not having the required finances to bring a lot of ready made foreign talent in, therefore greater importance was put on youth development. Meanwhile, the Eredivisie is currently producing more quality players than ever. Netherlands may be missing out on Euro 2016, but over the next 2-3 tournaments, they could have one of the best sides in their history. Even the current German national side is a result of a period in which the Bundesliga didn’t have the required finances to buy the best talent in the world.
As a nation, we have tried a lot of things to get our national side to compete in tournaments, and they have all failed. We have only been serious challengers in a handful of tournaments since 1966, and that is largely down to our desire to have the best domestic league. The Premier League is a fantastic product, but it doesn’t assist us in our aim of winning a major international tournament.
In all probability, the Premier League will find a way to get around the work permit regulations if Britain does leave the EU, with the government most likely making sportsmen exceptions to the rule. However, it poses an interesting dilemma for the Premier League and the sport in general. If the government did enforce the regulations and made hundreds of players leave the country, then the change in the political landscape would have led to a change in the footballing one. There is no doubt that it would lead to England having a more successful national side, but it appears that the FA and Premier League are more interested in having the best domestic league than a quality England side. It would take a huge paradigm shift to change this aim, and Brexit could provide just that.