There has been plenty of talk over the past month about the amount of money sloshing about in the coffers of Premier League clubs following a summer transfer window that saw sides collectively smash through the £1billion glass ceiling.
But looking at the bigger picture, can the Premier League remain the richest in world football following the summer’s EU referendum? It could be argued that last season’s fairytale championship for Leicester City may be the first and last of its kind in the Premier League. Why? Because post-Brexit rules could dramatically change the look of the world’s richest league.
Although we don’t know yet what restrictions there will be on the inflow of workers from Europe, our decision to part ways with the continent will mean fewer bargain players like Riyad Mahrez, a key player in Leicester’s seemingly impossible success story. And once Britain’s demarcation from the EU is finally drawn, footballers looking to ply their trade in the UK are likely to be subject to a similar set of rules that govern transfers from outside the region.
Those rules were tightened last year by the FA to limit player inflow and give more first-team chances to homegrown footballers. Currently, players from outside the EU must meet a minimum number of international appearances for a top-50 country over the previous two years.
Or a club must appeal by demonstrating that a player is special enough to warrant a visa by paying him annual wages far above the league average, which stands near £1.7 million. In all, an estimated 135 first-team Premier League players from Europe would have a tough time qualifying if broader rules were previously in place.
Notable examples are two of Manchester United’s key players, Anthony Martial and David de Gea, who were signed before becoming established members of the senior France and Spain squads. With 17 of the top 30 richest football clubs in the world being in the Premier League, you get the feeling, however, that the stakes are so high that changes can’t possibly be enforced without some concessions by the Football Association.
But money aside, some will also feel the pinch with the likely removal of a loophole that currently allows youth academy players to transfer within the bloc before they turn 18. That’s how Arsenal were able to sign current and former stars Hector Bellerin and Cesc Fabregas from the Barcelona youth academy at 16.
Ultimately, all these potential restrictions have the ability to inflate costs and compromise the Premier League’s global competitiveness. It appears inevitable that British players will see more action. That is why certain Brexiters, like Sol Campbell, wanted Britain out of the EU. There are no guarantees, however, that the talent pool will remain as high.