The summer transfer window witnesses the trading of players from one club to another right across Europe. Compressed into a few days, it often leads to poor decision-making and multi-million-pound flops. But what if some of these players might be ineligible to play after Brexit when the transition period ends on Dec 31? It certainly adds a bigger element of risk for clubs and will put a different perspective on this period for owners, managers, agents and players.
This summer, clubs in the Premier League are expected to spend big after a relatively quiet transfer window in January, but there is still no agreement between the Football Association and the Premier League on what the breakdown of a 25-man squad will look like post-Brexit.
After the UK has left the EU, the FA wants to raise the number of homegrown players in a 25-man squad from eight to 12, with no work-permit restrictions on the other 13, yet the Premier League sees no reason to raise the homegrown quota, wanting instead to keep the freedom of signing the remainder of the squad from wherever they wish to.
The government are set to take their lead from the FA as an endorsement from the governing body rules over the modern financial monster that is the Premier League. But the Premier League will point out that they pay the players, invest heavily in developing homegrown talent, and run the competition that all but one of Gareth Southgate’s current squad plays in every week.
Premier League chief executive, Richard Masters, has called for a “dynamic” solution, one that “can’t just be about quotas,” which is the first indication made in public that the two sides feel there is a way to resolve the current stand-off.
Masters has acknowledged that a strong England team is wanted by the Premier League, and that the new system should be flexible, but in the end, he has to answer to club owners whose priorities are clear and as a business they don’t want to risk what is a phenomenal success.
However, Mark Bullingham, CEO of the FA can seize this opportunity to protect the future of the England team.
After the 25th game of the season, the percentage of total minutes played in the Premier League by England-qualified players was 34.4%, up from an all-time low of 29.9% last season. It is too early to say that the small upturn marks a trend as the change has been helped by Chelsea’s transfer window embargo, which forced them to play their academy graduates, and the faith in English players that has been shown by the three promoted clubs, Norwich City, Sheffield United and Aston Villa.
For Southgate though, the issue is huge. The Spanish national team manager, Luis Enrique, can choose from a league that has 60% Spain-qualified players, as well as those Spanish players playing overseas. In France it is 50% and Italy and Germany both have more than 40% of home-qualified players. The percentage the England manager has to choose from is nowhere near the major nations against whom he must compete with at the Euro’s this summer.
The clubs must understand that this is a moment in history that they can benefit from by giving opportunities to their academy players in who they have invested so heavily. It is a great chance for young English talent and can pave the way for a successful national team in the decades to come.