• Jools Reimer


From this month, January 2021, new regulations will be put in place to vastly alter the way clubs conduct their business with foreign players.

Since the formation of the Premier League in the 1992, 61.2% of all its players have come from outside of England, ranking it as the third highest in Europe for overseas importation. But now we are firmly into January, the proposed regulations put together by the FA, The EFL, the Premier League and the Home Office are in affect, but how will this impact upon the operations of the clubs within the UK’s first division.

The most immediate effect will be on the way academies are run. The first change that will come in from this month is that clubs will no longer be allowed to sign players under the age of 18 from outside of the UK. This prevents success stories such as Cesc Fabregas and Hector Bellerin from ever happening again.

For some clubs this will lead to massive overhauls in the way their academies are operated and supplied. Manchester United house 12 of the 79 overseas players under the age of 18 in their reserve or academy teams and Manchester City have enjoyed the benefits of signing young players and selling them on for profit, such as Brahim Diaz. Who signed for the midlands club at just 14 and was then subsequently sold on to Real Madrid last season for nearly £20 million.

Whilst change will come for academies in their recruitment, there is no evidence to suggest that this will damage the quality of players within the first teams.

Players such as Cesc Fabregas, Hector Bellerin, Patrick Van Arnholt and Paul Pogba are outliers in a crowd of unsuccessful child prodigies that come to England at a young age and have successful Premier League careers.

More often than not, players who are recruited early, struggle to have breakouts into the first team. Even ones who do such Gerard Pique and Federico Macheda at Manchester United, have their moment and then tend to fade away. It is extremely rare that any of these youngsters turn into Premier League regulars without leaving again and developing elsewhere, before returning.

Art Langerler, the Director of Football for the Dutch FA said, “Most of the boys who go to England get very little chances, they are better off staying in Holland and developing.”

A perfect example of that is with players such as Vigil Van Dijk and Gini Wijnaldum who prolonged their careers in Holland to develop, before subsequently moving to Celtic and Newcastle respectively. Another is the infamous Ajax duo of Frankie De Jong and Matthijs De Ligt who were heavily sought after at the age of 16 but chose to stay longer and then earnt big moves at a later stage to Barcelona and Juventus. Both established first team players at two of the biggest clubs in world football.

Of the 23 Spanish nationals who have played in the Premier League this season, only three of those have gone on the ‘Cesc Fabregas journey’. Hector Bellerin, Eric Garcia and Robert Sanchez. Additionally, of the 26 French players that have played this season, only one of those have taken the ‘Nicolas Anelka journey’ in joining before turning 18 in Paul Pogba. A player who it’s worth noting, never made his mark in the Manchester United first team when he was much younger and who was then subsequently sold to Juventus before returning four seasons ago, for a at the time, record transfer fee.

Langerler elaborated to the fact that the Premier League is good for money and can be seen as a insurance policy, but in terms of development, not always the best choice.

So, whilst the change will have an effect behind the scenes, the immediate impact on the quality of the League will not necessarily be so apparent.

The more damming impact will perhaps be in the way that clubs will now have to conduct their main transfer business. With the UK now no longer part of the European Union players from other countries will no longer have the freedom of movement into the UK.

Instead, the plan is to give players a Government body endorsement to come to the Premier League to play. This endorsement will be given based on a points system. The minimum requirement for a player to be signed is 15 points which will in turn be based off the following:

· The number of international appearances they have for their respective countries and their countries international ranking.

· The stature of the club in which they are joining from and which league they are in. For example, joining from the Bundesliga is worth 15 points within itself. Whereas joining from the Portuguese Liga NOS is only worth 8.

· The varying degrees of success that the selling club attributes. So, whether they are in Europe and how far they progress through the competition.

· The number of club appearances they have. This is to see if they are an established player or not

This means that essentially clubs will have to spend more on bigger players rather than investing their time and recruitment on hidden gems lurking in clubs such as RB Salzburg. Whilst this does not affect the larger clubs it will have a damming consequence on the way clubs such as Brighton and Norwich recruit, both praised for their business over the last few seasons in bringing in players such Emiliano Buendia, who would not have met the required points to make him eligible to sign and developing them further.

However, there is a small loophole. If clubs wanted to sign a player who fits between 10-14 points, then they could take this to an exceptions panel. This panel would then determine whether the player is eligible due to two reasons: -


A. Certain circumstances prevented the player from reaching the 15-point threshold. There is yet to be clarification on what those circumstances may be


B. If a youth player shows enough evidence to suggest that they would be worth signing. This seems like a more of a judgement call on the panel’s behalf.

Liverpool Manger Jurgen Klopp has been one of many concerned by the changes. He recently said, “I am yet to see any advantages to Brexit.”

Whilst its uncertain yet of how much of an affect these changes will have, there are benefits that will come from this.

Clubs will have far more access to the vast talent pool of both Brazil and Argentina, which Arsenal have benefitted from in the signing of Gabriel Martinelli who arrived from the Serie D side Ituano in Brazil. Previously, due to regulations within the Premier League, players that were not holding an EU passport could not just simply join the Premier League and would otherwise have to sign in other countries first before eventually moving onto the Premier League. This is something that is no longer an obstacle. Martinelli was easy since he held an Italian Passport.

Additionally, Steve Price of Forbes magazine highlighted that it creates a fairer playing field when players are looking for a dream move.

“A Mexican who played in just one of his country’s matches over the last two seasons would pick up eight points. Add that to the eight points he would get for playing in the Liga MX (Mexico’s first division), and he has already passed the 15-point threshold.”

The point he makes is a good one. The new regulations open the floor up to players and leagues who would otherwise go unnoticed outside of Europe and creates far more opportunity to find talent that are not just from one of the top five leagues.

With the new rules in place there will no doubt be a momentary period of confusion and adjustment, there should in theory be no real downgrade in the quality and excitement that the world associates with the Premier League.