Brexit ball ache for English football

West Ham United's Manuel Lanzini (left) and Burnley's Aaron Lennon (right) battle for the ball during the Premier League match at the London Stadium

Brexit could be "hugely damaging" to English football, according to the chairmen of Burnley and Stoke City.

Burnley chairman Mike Garlick said uncertainty over a deal with the EU was already making it harder for clubs to sign players.

And Stoke chairman Peter Coates said that the Premier League could be hit by freedom-of-movement restrictions.

Mr Garlick told the BBC: "The destructive Brexit path being pursued by the government threatens to have a hugely damaging effect on clubs across the country.

"It threatens to make the widening inequality gap in our top division even worse.

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"The hit to the value of the pound against the euro, largely caused by Brexit uncertainty, is already making it harder for clubs to sign players.

"And ending freedom of movement will make it much more difficult for teams to attract the right talent, if the government brings in more restrictive conditions for work visas for players from Europe."

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And Mr Coates, whose family's Bet365 Group contributed £250,000 to the Remain campaign before the 2016 referendum, said he wanted the best for the Championship club but that "it's hard to seed how a botched Brexit will help".

He said: "The negative consequences are plain for all to see.

"The fall in the value of the pound that we've already seen, as well as the risk to our country's economic prosperity, cannot be brushed under the carpet.

"Depending on the Brexit deal, the Premier League, one of our country's success stories, could be damaged by freedom-of-movement restrictions. This could also affect the Championship.

"If this goes badly, it will be places like Stoke that suffer the most."

Last week Tottenham Hotspur's manager blamed their failure to make a summer signing on the pound's Brexit-driven slump.

Mauricio Pochettino said that Brexit, along with the cost of Tottenham's new stadium, were central to the club failing to sign any new players in the transfer window.

Mr Pochettino said: 'What the club is doing is showing that it is so brave because building a new training ground, finishing the [player] lodge this summer is a massive investment.

"Building a stadium that costs nearly £1bn – that's is the truth, don't believe when they say £400m.

"Then with Brexit it's worse because the cost is 30% more. That is a drama, I feel sorry for the English people."

In a letter released yesterday responding to questions over freedom of movement, sport minister Tracey Crouch said the government "absolutely recognises the value of sport to the UK" and "is determined to ensure that our sport sector continues to flourish".

At the moment players from the EU are allowed to move to English clubs under part of freedom-of-movement rules, while those from outside the EU need work permits which can depend on their nationality and the percentage of senior international games they have played.

Ms Crouch said that the government's white paper outlining its position on Brexit set out its ambition to "negotiate a framework for mobility" that will end free movement but enable people to continue to travel in Europe.

Labour MP and Tottenham Hotspur fan David Lammy, a champion of the anti-Brexit campaign group Best for Britain, said: "Premier League clubs are being forced to pay a colossal price in this transfer window thanks to the pound's slump and the uncertainty surrounding this Brexit mess.

"Could this be the reason we've seen a quiet summer window by normal standards? Pochettino thinks so, and so do the Burnley and Stoke chairmen.

"No one voted to make one of Britain finest exports - the Premier League - less competitive. At a time when Ronaldo's gone to Italy and top stars continue to flock to the likes of Real Madrid and Barcelona, we shouldn't be handing our clubs at home a disadvantage."

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