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News & Comment

Footballers win exemption from English tests

Foreign footballers have been given a special exemption from rules requiring them to learn English which apply to other workers from overseas, it was revealed today.

Players from outside the EU will have one year's grace before they are required to pass language tests.

They will be allowed to enter the country under Tier 5 of the points-based immigration system which is for temporary workers and those on cultural exchanges.

But after a year in Britain they will transfer to Tier 2 and face the language test.

It could require them to learn more language than the traditional footballer cliches required to pass muster in television interviews such as "game of two halves", "goal at each end" and "take each game as it comes".

The rules will affect those signed during the January transfer window - including potential Brazilian star Kaka who has been linked with a move to Manchester City.

The exemption was made following a request from the Football Association.

Border and Immigration Minister Phil Woolas said it was important the UK was "open and attractive" for top sportsmen and women.

"Elite foreign sportspeople - including footballers playing at the highest level - make an important cultural contribution to the UK and we want to ensure the UK stays open and attractive to them," he said.

"That is why footballers who come to the UK as a temporary worker are now allowed to switch into the skilled worker category of the points system without leaving the country.

"They will of course still need to meet the criteria of Tier 2 and have a grasp of English to ensure they integrate into British life."