By Tony Attwood
If you are a regular reader you’ll know that since Brexit happened we’ve been making two points:
a) That the rules for Premier League clubs over transfers have now changed totally.
b) That the English media either seems totally ignorant of the fact, or the journalists are seeking to hide the changes on the grounds that their editors have told them that Brexit is universally a good thing (which in terms of the larger PL clubs may not actually be true).
Now at last, 24 days after Brexit and after the opening of the transfer window with new rules, one media source has finally caught up with the fact that a) we are no longer in the European Union, b) new rules apply and c) this might be affecting football, but not in terms of making transfers easier.
Basically all PL clubs are now banned from signing foreign players (which in this system, ludicrously includes Scottish players, even though they are part of the same country as England – that is to say the United Kingdom) until they are 18. Likewise we can’t sell or loan players under 18 to foreign countries, even though a 17 year old English man or woman is fully entitled to work in any other industry in Scotland.
Which means that although the media seems not to have grasped this yet, English players are worth a lot more in England than before.
As the Observer newspaper says, “If the big clubs then target those players, the money will flow more through the English system. If less well-resourced clubs like Birmingham, Charlton and Exeter are already producing world-class players imagine what they would do with more investment.”
And if they are not? Ah, that is not answered.
But as things stand Bukayo Ayoyinka T. M. Saka and Emile Smith Rowe each now have a double value. They are great players, and are English, and so for the moment they don’t take up any of the 17 “foreign” places in the squad.
Should we ever wish to sell ever of them, English clubs will be falling over themselves to buy them, because the bigger clubs have, and will probably continue to have, lots of spare spaces in their “25” list for the English.
Indeed the way the big-time English PL clubs have reacted to the “25” rule has been annoying the legislators from the FA enormously. For example on 21 October 2020 the Manchester Evening News put out the headline, “Manchester City confirm 20 man Premier League squad”, and that might make you think, “What is all this 20 stuff? Surely it is 25?”
And yes it is 25, but Manchester City can’t be arsed with finding English players when they a) can find quality foreign players by the score and b) can pay anything they like for them.
So yes, Manchester City stuck two fingers up to the FA rules by just registering 20 players, and by and large forgetting about the English.
And this is the bit that the response to the FA’s “25 man” rule that the dumbo legislators of the FA never imagined. So they are pushing for the number of foreigners to be reduced even further.
The most common exploration of a way around this is the signing of new agreements with foreign clubs, and then picking the best players and quickly getting them to England in time to qualify. Where that doesn’t work players are being loaned to a club where he will get first team exposure and so gain the all-important “governing body endorsement”. Play enough in Croatia or Belgium and you rise up the “available for England” list.
Of course in this regard Manchester City are the big winners in England – they have clubs all over the world that they are linked to, which can take players, and play them, so they can then get transfers to England, if they turn out ok. Watch out if Red Star start developing an English club!
This situation is being recognised a little, but only a little. The problem for the FA is that its new regulations for post-Brexit Britain were cobbled together right at the last moment, and there are multiple loop-holes in them. Indeed given the type of people working for the FA (commonplace name, “old duffers”) and those working for some Premier League clubs (“schemers”) it is not surprising that the rules are already being shown to be not fit for purpose.
The only question is, have Arsenal’s board woken up to the fact that new rules apply and new manipulations are necessary? If not, then that climb back to the “not a trophy” positions which guarantee entry into Europe, is going to even harder than we imagined.