How will Brexit affect the January transfer window?

Premier League clubs now have to operate under different regulations should they want to recruit players from the European Union

Jamie Gardner
Tuesday 05 January 2021 09:39 GMT
Tottenham and Real Madrid's transfer connection

Premier League clubs in the UK will face a different challenge this month in their bid to strengthen their squads with a new set of rules that they must follow if they are to sign players from the European Union in the January transfer window following Brexit.

So here is a breakdown on what will be new and how Premier League clubs can adapt to new rules in order to continue strengthening like seasons before.

Why are new rules needed?

Brexit will mean clubs are no longer able to sign European players under EU rules related to free movement of labour. 

Instead, these players will now require a governing body endorsement (GBE) in order to be eligible, just as non-EU players required in the past.

How does a player qualify for a GBE?

Via a points-based system agreed by the Football Association, the EFL and the Premier League and approved by the Home Office, which will be reviewed at the end of the January window.

READ MORE: Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta reveals January transfer window priority

A score of 15 points against the criteria will be enough to secure a GBE, while a score between 10 and 14 points is referred to an exceptions panel who will then rule on the suitability and quality of the player concerned.

What criteria are used in the points system?

The new system will still include number of international caps, plus the FIFA ranking of that country, as it did before when judging the quality of non-EU signings. But it has become more sophisticated and will now also consider a range of other factors including club appearances, the strength of the domestic league and other competitions those appearances were made in and even the academy which developed a player.

What does Brexit mean for the recruitment of young players?

Firstly, it means clubs can no longer sign EU players aged between 16 and 18 as was the case previously. Now, a player from the EU can only be signed if they are 18 and over. Youth players aged 16 to 18 can still move between England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales following an amendment to transfer regulations approved by world governing body FIFA.

But what if a talented teenager from France, for example, has not met the criteria needed for a GBE?

There will be additional criteria for youth players - those aged 18 and 19 - including the number of times they were named on a team sheet even for a match in which they did not ultimately play, appearances in youth competition at club and international level and so on. Nick Cox, the head of Manchester United's academy, told the BBC the new rules would put British clubs at a disadvantage compared to their European rivals in recruiting top talent.

The Dortmund deal for Bellingham last July would not be allowed to occur under current rules

Are there any ways clubs could get around these rules?

In theory, English clubs who have a partnership with a team still in the EU could get them to sign under-18 players on their behalf, before moving to England once eligible.

What restrictions are in place regarding the signing of young players?

In January clubs will be able to sign no more than three under-21 players who require a GBE. It has been agreed the long-term position will be that clubs can sign no more than six such players in a single season.

What impact will all this have on the development of English-qualified talent?

The first thing to say is that there will be no change to the quota of homegrown players in a 25-man squad - this remains at eight. The Premier League points to a year-on-year rise in the number of homegrown players making their debuts in the top flight even before the introduction of the restrictions concerning EU players aged 16 and 18.

What about players moving from the UK to the EU?

Under-18s would now be barred from doing so, which means a move such as 17-year-old Jude Bellingham's from Birmingham to Borussia Dortmund in July could no longer happen. Over-18s would be subject to the rules applying to non-EU players in whichever EU country they were seeking to move to.


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