Premier League clubs are set to be forced to ensure half of their squad is “homegrown” under radical FA plans to cope with Brexit.
The Times reports today the FA will put a proposal to clubs this week which would reduce the number of overseas players in each 25-man first-team squad to 12.
It comes as the FA seeks an agreement with England’s top tier to agree a deal which would avoid a scenario in which all EU players would have to fulfil the same tough criteria to get a work permit as current non-EU overseas stars.
Currently clubs can have up to 17 overseas players in their squads. A reduction to 12 would mean big changes to almost three quarters of the current teams in the Premier League, who have more than that figure in this season’s squad.
The Times report claims that, as part of the deal, the FA would agree to give a “governing body endorsement” for a work permit for any foreign player signed by a Premier League club.
It is reported that both the government and the English Football League are aware of the plans, with the former being happy to sanction it if signed off.
A government spokesman said: ‘We recognise the need for sports, including football, to continue to access talent from the EU and globally and are in discussions with sports bodies about this.’
England’s top flight has benefited hugely from buying players from within the EEA (European Economic Area), which has allowed clubs to sign them without a work permit being required.
Foreign players from outside the EEA must satisfy strict criteria to gain a work permit, up to playing in as many of 75% of their country’s international matches.
Such criteria would have seen the likes of Chelsea’s French defensive midfielder N’Golo Kanté and Manchester City winger Riyad Mahrez – who, although he plays for Algeria, is a French citizen – prevented from playing in England.
Neither players were full internationals prior to signing for Leicester City from Caen and Le Havre respectively and, under rules for non-EEA players, would not have qualified for a work permit.
But the FA has been determined that Brexit is an opportunity to increase the number of England-qualified players in the Premier League without stopping clubs signing the overseas stars who make the league so popular internationally.
Before the Brexit referendum the-then FA chairman Greg Dyke spoke of limiting ‘an awful lot of bog- standard foreign players’.
Currently the percentage of internationals a player must have featured in varies according to the nation’s place in the FIFA World Rankings. A player whose nation is ranked in the top 10 is only required to have featured in 30% of games over the past two years, while those ranked outside the top 30 must have played in 75%.
The top-ranked EEA nation currently outside the top 30 is currently the Republic of Ireland, in 33rd, whose players are unlikely to be affected by changes post-Brexit. Then it is Iceland, who knocked England out of Euro 2016, in 36th.