There is nothing more important than football. As Bill Shankly the great Liverpool manager said “Some people believe football is a matter of life and death, I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that“—Bill Shankly on Football.
So how could leaving the EU affect our national game? Two thirds of EU players in the premiership would not meet the criteria currently used for non-European players.
Well I will spell it out, but as one who has often said that the failure of England to do well in international competions is a direct result of club teams having too many foreign players, then I have to say I have mixed feelings on this one. It is all a matter of club first or country first.
Bosman…. this is the crux of it. In 1995, a hitherto unknown Belgian player, Jean-Marc Bosman, sought to move from RFC Liège to Dunkerque, but was prevented from doing so, despite being out of contract, as the clubs could not agree a fee. Bosman’s enterprising lawyer, Jean-Louis Dupont, took the case to the European Court of Justice. He not only won Bosman’s release, but also that of footballers everywhere in the union. This was the start of the big influx of foreign players into English club sides.
The Premier League view is that while the EU is imperfect, it’s interests are best served by being inside, fighting it’s corner on aspects such as broadcast, digital rights and player contracts, rather than being regulated without influence. In a speech last October executive chairman Richard Scudamore said: “I believe we, in the UK, must be in Europe from a business perspective.”
However Greg Dyke for the FA is in favour of tightening work permit rules, in an attempt to reduce the number of cheap foreign players of middling ability denying native ones first-team action. The FA estimated this would cut by a third the number of non-EU players but the effect on EU players would be even greater as clubs sign more of them. There is therefore something of a conflict of views between the Premier League clubs and the FA.
If Brexit occurred then new arrangements between the UK and each EU country would have to be drawn up. This could result in an increase in the influence the FA has over the Premier league.
Karen Brady, West Ham United’s influential vice-chairman has said in a letter to the chairmen of every senior professional club in England, Scotland and Wales, that “cutting ourselves off from Europe would have devastating consequences”.
Other possible issues are potential increases in flight costs for fans following their teams in Europe, the effect on the sale of TV rights to European countries and the issue of whether foreign owners would be as interested in investing in a game that had more English players and fewer foreigners.
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