EPL told to cut foreign players

LONDON • English Premier League clubs will be obliged to ensure that at least half of their first-team squads are made up of “homegrown” players under drastic plans put forward by the Football Association (FA) to deal with Brexit.

The proposal, which would reduce the number of overseas players in each 25-man squad to 12, will be put to the 20 clubs this week.

It is believed that if the clubs do not do so, they could face a nightmare “no-deal” scenario in which all European Union players would have to meet the same criteria that non-EU players do now to get a work permit.

The number of international caps, the Fifa ranking of the country that the player represents, the transfer fee and the player’s wages can all determine whether a work permit is granted.

The Premier League clubs can have up to 17 overseas players in their squads under existing rules, but The Times of London has learnt that the FA’s plan would reduce that number by five.

That would mean significant changes to a number of squads in the top flight, where 13 clubs have more than 12 overseas players in their first-team squads this season.

Five clubs, including Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur, have the maximum number of foreign players while four more, including Chelsea and Liverpool, have 16.

12

The English FA plans to limit Premier League squads to 12 non-homegrown players when Brexit kicks in.

In return for an agreement to boost the number of home-grown players in first-team squads, it is understood that the FA would agree to give a governing body endorsement (GBE) – a pre-requisite for a work permit – for every foreign player who gets a contract with a Premier League club.

It believes that would still allow top foreign talent to come to England and maintain the Premier League’s global popularity, yet boost the number of English players and remove all the red tape that surrounds the process.

The Premier League and the FA have been poles apart on Brexit for months, with the league insisting that it wanted all overseas players to be given work permits regardless of the criteria that exist now.

“Access to talented footballers from Europe has played a key part in the growth of the Premier League, with attendance and global interest increasing as high-quality foreign players have taken their place in the competition with the best British and Irish players,” a Premier League spokesman said.

The FA, on the other hand, has been determined that Brexit should be an opportunity for increasing the proportion of English players in the Premier League.

Even before the Brexit referendum, then-FA chairman Greg Dyke mooted reducing the number of what he called “an awful lot of bog-standard foreign players”.

The proportion of English players starting top-flight matches was as low as 28 per cent only two weekends ago – 62 out of 220 players.

The clubs will be given the full details of the proposal at a meeting of chairmen in London tomorrow.

A cut in the number of foreign players would mean English players becoming more valuable in terms of transfer fees.

Clubs would also be forced to use their English players more often – none of Chelsea’s seven home-grown players featured in the starting line-up against Everton last weekend and it has been suggested that the club is only holding on to Victor Moses and Gary Cahill to fulfil its homegrown quota.

Home-grown players include those from overseas who have spent three years in English or Welsh clubs’ academies between the ages of 16 and 21. After Brexit however, academies will no longer be permitted to sign 16-and 17-year-olds from Europe and will have to wait until players are 18.

That is likely to reduce the number of home-grown players born abroad, though players who moved at 18 such as Manchester United’s Romelu Lukaku would still qualify.

Owen Jones, a specialist in immigration sports law, said the top-flight clubs should have worries about the effect of Brexit.

He said: “The Premier League and the clubs are rightly concerned that the current visa system will not allow… the same number of EU players into the UK in the future.

“For clubs to maintain the status quo, as near as they can, they need the visa system to change entirely or the GBE system to be taken out of that process.”

THE TIMES, LONDON

NON-HOMEGROWN PLAYERS FROM EPL’S ‘BIG SIX’

MANCHESTER CITY – 17 players

Sergio Aguero, Claudio Bravo, Danilo, Kevin de Bruyne, Ilkay Gundogan, David Silva, Vincent Kompany, Aymeric Laporte, Fernandinho, Riyad Mahrez, Eliaquim Mangala, Benjamin Mendy, Bernardo Silva, Nicolas Otamendi, Leroy Sane, Ederson, Oleksandr Zinchenko

TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR – 17 players

Toby Alderweireld, Serge Aurier, Mousa Dembele, Eric Dier (youth career in Portugal), Christian Eriksen, Paulo Gazzaniga, Son Heung-min, Erik Lamela, Fernando Llorente, Hugo Lloris, Georges-Kevin Nkoudou, Lucas Moura, Davinson Sanchez, Moussa Sissoko, Jan Vertonghen, Michel Vorm, Victor Wanyama

CHELSEA – 16 players

Marcos Alonso, Kepa Arrizabalaga, Cesar Azpilicueta, Willian, Willy Caballero, Olivier Giroud, Eden Hazard, Jorginho, N’Golo Kante, Mateo Kovacic, David Luiz, Alvaro Morata, Emerson Palmieri, Pedro, Antonio Rudiger, Davide Zappacosta

LIVERPOOL – 16 players

Roberto Firmino, Alisson, Fabinho, Loris Karius, Naby Keita, Dejan Lovren, Sadio Mane, Joel Matip, Simon Mignolet, Alberto Moreno, Divock Origi, Andy Robertson (Scottish), Mohamed Salah, Xherdan Shaqiri, Virgil van Dijk, Georginio Wijnaldum

ARSENAL – 15 players

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Petr Cech, Mohamed Elneny, Sead Kolasinac, Laurent Koscielny, Alexandre Lacazette, Bernd Leno, Stephan Lichtsteiner, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Nacho Monreal, Shkodran Mustafi, Mesut Ozil, Sokratis Papastathopoulos, Lucas Torreira, Granit Xhaka

MANCHESTER UNITED – 14 players

Eric Bailly, Matteo Darmian, David de Gea, Marouane Fellaini, Fred, Ander Herrera, Victor Lindelof, Anthony Martial, Juan Mata, Nemanja Matic, Marcos Rojo, Sergio Romero, Alexis Sanchez, Antonio Valencia

Note: Players like Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku are exempt as they trained in English academies.

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