Until now, Leicester City’s title triumph was without doubt the most remarkable thing to happen in English football’s top tier in recent times.
Seasons passed, the worst teams were relegated from the Premier League, the top four splashed the cash. And repeat. That was the custom.
But last night, Theresa May ‘put pen to paper’ on Britain’s letter of departure from the European Union, which is set to plunge the nation into uncertainty.
And football, so often deemed to be untouchable in its own little world, is set to be affected by ‘Brexit.’
How is that, you ask?
It seems that already British clubs will face a huge task keeping their star players. Think Eden Hazard, Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil. You know, the ones already linked with a move to nations still part of the EU.
This is not, of course, because of the fact both Germany and Spain are still part of the EU, but that the dramatic drop in value of the pound has left those footballing stars short changed. After all, most players’ deals are done in Euros.
Let’s face it, we’ve all been stoutly watching as the Premier League developed the ambition and hunger of players to get better deals.
Well, now we’re faced with a situation where England’s top tier, so highly prized as one of the best and most competitive in world football, loses its star attractions. Great start.
And on to the more glaring question; how will this affect transfers?
In theory, football clubs have only really been held by work permits regarding players outside of Europe. Generally, that involves players from South America and Africa.
The rule for non-EEA (European Economic Area) players, as it stands, requires players to be ‘internationally established at the highest level’ and that ‘their employment will make a significant contribution to the development of their sport at the highest level.’
Simple enough, right? What that – in the most part – boils down to is this; for an international to be granted a work permit, they must have been involved in at least 30% of games for their country over the past two years. If that country is in the top ten of the FIFA world rankings.
If their nation lies between 11th and 20th, that minimum threshold increases to 45%. It’s 60% between 21st and 30th, and 75% between 31st and 50th.
Assuming the FA maintain these strict rules for EU members, it seems that English football could suffer significant detriment.
It would be the smaller clubs like Stoke and Southampton – the ones targeting the likes of Sergi Palencia over Sergio Ramos – which would be left to suffer. Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool and the Manchester clubs could all splash the cash to bring in world-class internationals who meet that criteria.
Oh, and had this been implemented sooner, English football would have missed out on David Ginola, Cristiano Ronaldo and Thierry Henry. No biggie.
The rules would be even more complicated for youth players which could have heavily impact academies.
It would also apparently leave a glaring question mark over footballers whose contracts are expiring. Will they be able to leave on a free, as they are now under the Bosman ruling?
Guess what? The Bosman ruling which gave footballers the right to move on once no longer contracted was decided under EU Law, in the European Court of Justice.
Fortunately for Britain, that is unlikely to change, such is it’s importance in the modern game. Sports law expert Daniel Geey told the Independent last year: “I would be highly surprised if that changes.”
Although if you’re Labour MP John Mann, the rule is outdated and should be abolished.