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How Brexit will impact transfers in the Premier League

Hannibal Mejri

Manchester United Wonder kid -Hannibal Mejri


The United Kingdom left the European Union after 31st December 2020. The Brexit decision will have a significant impact on the transfers in the Premier League. The FA, Premier League and EFL have come together and devised and agreed upon a plan for the transfers of foreign players in the Premier League after the Brexit. Football’s Governing Body Endorsement (GBE) proposal was submitted to the Government last month by the FA, as the governing body for football, and was approved by The Home Office. Criteria will provide the framework for Premier League and EFL clubs to sign overseas players post-Brexit. And there have been significant changes in the process of Premier League as well as the EFL clubs buying and selling overseas players. We will look at the provisions for signing overseas players and how they will impact Premier League clubs.

New rules for signing overseas players

Since its inception in 1992, Premier League is one of the most diverse leagues in Europe. In a survey by Football Observatory in 2017, Premier League ranks 3rd in Europe in percentage of minutes played by foreign players. The percentage amounted to a staggering 61.2%.

But post Brexit, clubs will not be able to sign players freely from the EU. Players from EU countries who want to play in the Premier League or EFL will be required to gain a GBE, like all other overseas players without the right to work in the UK. The decision is likely to impact transfers in the Premier League.

GBE explained:-

The GBE will operate a points-based system, where points are scored for senior and talented young players based on:
1) Senior and youth international appearances.
2) Quality of the selling club, based on the league they are in, league position and progression in continental competition.
3) Club appearances, based on domestic league and continental competition minutes.

Players accumulating the requisite amount of points will earn a GBE automatically, while players just below the threshold may be considered for a GBE by an Exceptions Panel. The system meets the joint objectives of the Premier League, EFL and the FA allowing access to talented players. Along with that safeguarding England teams, by ensuring opportunities for homegrown players.

In the Premier League, the number of overseas U21 players a club can sign is now limited to 3 in the January transfer window. The limit will six per season moving forwards. Under FIFA’s rules, the UK’s exit from the EU will also mean that clubs will not be able to sign players from overseas until they are 18.

Impact on transfers

Cesc Fabregas
Cesc Fabregas at Arsenal

As mentioned above, Brexit will impact transfers in the Premier League. All Premier League clubs except for Burnley have a significant amount of players from the European Union in their youth setups. Clubs scout extensively throughout Europe searching for talented players. But due to Brexit, it will not be possible for clubs to sign any non-British player under the age of 18. It would mean that we will not see signings like Hannibal Mejbri by Manchester United or Marcelo Flores by Arsenal. Examples of Premier League clubs signing U-18 players from European Union are plenty. Even in the past players like Cesc Fabregas, Paul Pogba, joined their respective clubs at a very young age.

Hannibal Mejbri
Hannibal Mejbri at Manchester United

Such deals are not possible now with the new rules. This will have a huge impact on transfers now and much bigger impact in the near future. Now other European Giants like Barcelona, Real Madrid and Juventus will have lesser competition to sign talented youngsters from the nations in the European Union. And they can still sign U-18 players from English clubs.

Further Repercussions

It can be said that this move will lead to English clubs falling behind other European clubs. Premier League will lose its global outreach due a lack of diversity. On the other hand, we haven’t seen many success stories of 15-16 year olds moving to England and having good careers in England. For every Cesc Fabregas you will find a Milen Baars who was unable to establish himself. It is evident that, the move will benefit English players. It will give them a clearer path to the first team. As a result of the restrictions, clubs will scout locally.

It is obvious why overseas players moved to UK. Superior facilities, financial benefits and the dream to make in the Premier League motivate the players to move to England. But all of this is going to change. The current rules mean English clubs can move their attention towards South America. Although many clubs predicted this and have signed underage players before Brexit happened. Manchester United signed the likes of Marc Jurado, Alvaro Fernandez and Isak Hansen Aaroen.


The new post-Brexit regulations surely are good for better development of domestic players. But this will only widen the gap between clubs with a lot of resources and other clubs who cannot afford to do the same. Also, It will be difficult for clubs with limited financial resources to get good overseas players. As those players may not fulfill the required criteria to get a work permit.

Nonetheless, this is an interesting development and will significantly impact the future of the Premier League.

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