The Premier League is seeking to avoid strict post-Brexit regulations on signing European players which would have seen the likes of N’Golo Kanté barred from playing in England.
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.
Now the game’s authorities say they do not believe merely ensuring the regulations which currently apply to players outside the EEA would be the right approach post-Brexit.
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.
The Premier League says it has held positive talks about the “vital” acquisition of European players “with the freedom they currently enjoy.”
A spokesperson said: “Like many other organisations dependent on a combination of domestic and international talent, we are waiting to better understand what the political and regulatory landscape will be after the UK leaves the European Union.
“Access to talented footballers from across Europe has played a key part in the growth of the Premier League, with match attendance and global interest increasing significantly as high-quality foreign players have taken their place in the competition with and against the best British and Irish players.
“It is vital that our clubs can continue to acquire European players with the freedom they currently enjoy.
“We have held positive discussions with government about the importance of access to European players for our clubs, and the many cultural and economic benefits a globally popular Premier League brings to the UK.”
The Premier League said it hoped a collective approach with its football allies, the Football Association and the English Football League (EFL), will help persuade government.
A FA spokesperson said: “We are continuing to work with the Premier League, EFL and a range of government departments, including the DCMS [Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport], Home Office and Treasury, during this consultation period.”
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 Iceland, who knocked England out of Euro 2016, in 32nd.