The current EU regulations state that players from member countries do not need work permits to play for British clubs, thus providing players from the EU with free movement across European clubs. If as a result of the referendum Britain were to leave the EU, there are many players who would fail to meet the current criteria for non EU work permits. Currently, there are over 300 players in Britain’s top leagues (including the Premier League and Scottish Premier League) that would not reach the necessary requirements. This could result in a mass purge of players unable to meet the criteria, leaving English clubs at a serious disadvantage.
That said it is highly unlikely that footballers who are already playing for English clubs would immediately be deported. We would expect the players to be able to continue playing for their respective clubs until their contracts expire.
Even then, upon the termination of such contracts, the implications are unknown and heavily depend on what type of relationship Britain would build with Europe in the result of Britain voting to leave.
International stars such as David de Gea and Mezut Ozil should not be at risk due to their status as regular players for their countries. It is those players on the fringe of international football who could potentially face difficulties in either staying at or joining a British club.
Britain would of course be keen to ensure that they are able to retain and attract the best talent, so it would be interesting to see what gets put into place.
Article 19 of FIFA’s Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players restricts players under the age of 18 from moving freely. Although this hinders the ease of transferring and signing new, young talent, the exceptions states that players between the age of 16 and 18 may move freely if they are within the EU or EEA (European Economic Area.)
Therefore, if Britain left the EU, this could prevent them from recruiting European players younger than 18 and British clubs would not be able to acquire young talent whilst they are still at a rather low cost.
Additionally, this could limit the amount of time in which players can become classed as “home-grown.” In both the Champions League and Europa League, at least four players per team of 25 must be “club-trained” (meaning they have spent three seasons at the club between the ages of 15 and 21.)
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