Chairmen of Premier League clubs have spoken to the government over how the post-Brexit immigration laws will impact on foreign players coming to England in the hope of reaching an exemption on EU-registered signings.
The chancellor, Philip Hammond, has promised that “highly-skilled and highly-trained paid workers” will be exempt from the new laws, with a number of current Premier League footballers hailing from abroad. More than two-thirds of Premier League players were born abroad, and it is not yet known how the future immigration laws will impact on what clubs are able to do in the transfer market.
Both Stoke City chairman, Peter Coates, and West Ham co-owner, David Gold, have called on the Prime Minister Theresa May to include footballers on the list of those exempt from the new laws, reports The Times, although former FA chairman Greg Dyke believes it could cut down on the number of European players in the Premier League and offer more chances for English players with the added benefit of improving the national team.
“We’d expect them to be included. But we have to wait and see,” Coates said. “We don’t know. And I can tell you the prime minister doesn’t know, the guy leading it, David Davis [the Brexit secretary], doesn’t know, Boris Johnson [the foreign secretary] certainly won’t know.
“I think the government’s got more on its hands than worrying about the Premier League. But they’ve no more idea than I have of what’s going to happen. So nobody knows how this is going to work out.”
The Premier League did not want Britain to leave the European Union before the referendum, and Coates’s opinion has not changed despite Article 50 being triggered by the Prime Minster earlier this week.
“I’m pessimistic about leaving,” Coates added. “Nothing’s changed my mind. Hopefully, football will find a way of looking after itself when it finally happens — whenever that will be. That could be years down the line.
“We’re into the unknown. What this is creating is uncertainty and we shall all look back in five years’ time and think, ‘What the hell have we done this for? We’re worse off’. And, in ten years’ time, we’ll still be saying the same thing.”
But despite former FA chairman Dyke firmly believing that Brexit can reduce the number of “very average European players” in the Premier League, West Ham co-owner Gold was more concerned with the increase in transfer fees due to the fall in the value of the pound.
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“It’s already affecting [the English game] because they are more expensive to buy because of the pound,” Gold said. “Brexit has already had an impact on us in that sense.
“The bottom line is the Premier League is the greatest league the world has ever known. It’s a fantastic advert for Britain, for England. I know people talk about the wealth that’s there, but these guys are on huge salaries and all the tax is going into the exchequer. Why would you stifle that? Why would you want that to change? It’s a great advert.
“The Premier League goes around the world and it’s ever expanding. I don’t see a government doing something potty to disturb that.”