Football: The English Football Association plans to cut foreign players in the Premier League ‘Post-Brexit’

By Amrit Johal Sports Legal Consultant

On 23 June 2016, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (UK) voted in a Referendum, by a small majority, to leave the European Union (EU).

Having triggered the withdrawal process under the provisions of Article 50 of the EU Treaty on 29 March 2017, the UK will leave the EU on 29 March 2019.

So far, the negotiations between the UK and the EU have not led to any final agreed terms on which the UK will leave the EU. In other words, there is yet no deal, mainly because the UK and the EU cannot agree on the border arrangements between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland after the UK leaves the EU. This continues to be a major issue and stumbling block to a final deal.

If this is not resolved, it is possible that the UK will leave the EU without a deal. In other words, there will be what has come to be known as a ‘Hard Brexit’ without any transitional period in which to adjust to a new regime. A cliff-edge situation!

The main sport in the UK that would be affected by this is football.

‘Brexit’ – with or without a deal – will have an immediate effect on the transfer of foreign football players from the remaining 27 Members States of the EU, as the freedom of movement of workers, which include football players (decided in the famous Bosman case), would no longer apply. They will, therefore, need a work permit in order to play for any English Club ‘post-Brexit’.

Some have argued that this would not necessarily be a bad thing, as Clubs would need to develop more ‘home-grown’ players rather than rely on foreign ones.

In fact, it has been announced on 13 November 2018 that the English Football Association (FA) is planning to reduce the number of foreign players in English Premier League squads from 17 to 12.

In the current season, 2018-2019, 13 out of the 20 Premier League Clubs have more than 12 foreign players in their first team squads.

Thus, this proposed change would have a very significant effect on the Premier League and its continuing popularity and success on a world-wide basis.

In return, the FA would agree to give a so-called ‘governing body endorsement’ for any foreign players, who secure a contract with a Premier League Club, to enable them to obtain the required work permit.

The FA is due to present these new proposals to Premier League Clubs this week. If the Clubs fail to agree, this could lead to a situation, ‘post-Brexit’, whereby all EU players transferring to the UK would have to satisfy the same criteria, currently applicable to non-EU players, to enable them to obtain the required work permit.

We are certainly living in interesting times!

Amrit Johal may be contacted by e-mail at ‘’