On the 31st of December 2020 the UK will officially leave the European Union, leading to a series
of consequences for football players from the EU who previously benefited from the right of free movement within the EU, wishing to play in the Premier League.
The FA, the Premier League and the EFL have agreed upon a set of rules and requirements for Premier League and EFL clubs wishing to sign overseas (EU) players as per the 1st of January 2020.
The first rule that will impact EU players, already in place for other/non-EU overseas players, is the requirement to obtain a so-called GBE (an endorsement issued by The FA).
The GBE will be granted on a points-based system with the following criterion:
- Senior and youth international appearances
- Quality of the selling club, based on the league they are in, their league position and progression in the continental competition
- Club appearances, based on domestic league and continental competition minutes
Players accumulating the requisite amount of points will earn a GBE automatically, while players just below the threshold may be considered for a GBE by an Exceptions Panel.
The introduction of this requirement for EU players is in line with the joint objectives of the FA, the Premier League and the EFL: allowing access to the best players and future talent for clubs yet safeguarding opportunities for homegrown players.
The second rule is related to the amount of players Premier League clubs will be allowed to sign per season. In the January 2021 transfer window, clubs will only be allowed to sign three U21 overseas players (applying to both EU and non EU nationals) and 6 players in the subsequent seasons.
The third rule is imposed by FIFA itself and impedes clubs from signing overseas players below the age of 18. One of the exceptions to the prohibition of the international transfer of minors is when the transfer takes place within the territory of the European Union or European Economic Area and the player is aged between 16 and 18. This rule, aimed at the protection of minors, along with its exceptions is laid out in article 19 of the FIFA Regulations on the Status and transfer of players (FIFA RSTP).
The exact impact of these rules on for example the competitiveness of the premier league vs. other leagues is yet to be perceived but the impact on EU players is clear: they will no longer benefit from special advantages over non-EU players as both will be considered overseas players and be subjected to the same immigration criteria. These restrictions inherently also apply to managers and other club officials.
The application of these rules will be reviewed regularly.