Last week the Premier League released a statement on Brexit and access to talent in light of the FA's proposal seeking to limit the number of non-homegrown players in senior squads. Media accounts suggest that the FA are aiming for the number of non-homegrown players to be limited to 13 for Premier League clubs – this plan is set in the context of a post-Brexit Premier League. The FA views the proposal as a mechanism to increase opportunities for domestic talent at elite clubs. The Premier League has opposed the idea however citing the absence of evidence linking quotas with improved performance by the national team.
I can understand the view that the Premier League should not be exempt from the implications of Brexit, but I can only see minor benefits of the FA’s proposal.
Introducing a quota on non-homegrown players could have a range of negative effects for the league. On the pitch, it could impact the competitiveness of English clubs in the Champions League if they are prevented from importing elite talent. Off the pitch, it may serve to increase what seems to be an already artificially high price for English talent – this premium may raise further if the quota is hardened.
At the moment there is plenty of English talent at top clubs and they make it despite intense international competition; Liverpool have twelve English players, Spurs have nine and Manchester City and Manchester United both have seven in their senior squad. There’s an argument that the current English team is one of the best in the Premier League era despite the internationalisation of the league. English players are likely benefiting from the competition and from foreign coaches and players.
The chart below displays the nationality of Premier League players in percentage terms by season based on whether they are English (white bars), from another EU country (light grey bars) or are non-EU (dark grey bars). Yes, there has been a decline in the level of English talent in the league but the trade-off has been a far superior league to that of the 92/93 season.
There could be some minor benefits if the FA plan was to come into effect. At present there can be a bottleneck in development pathways for young players. Maybe non-English talent that currently sits on the bench for the majority of the season would be replaced by domestic bench warmers?
All in all, it seems that the cons outweigh the pros. The influx of foreign players post Bosman, mostly from other EU countries, is what made the Premier League one of the best products in the world and added to its marketability. It is not surprising that the Premier League opposes this move given how the clubs and the league in general have benefited greatly from labour mobility. The conclusion of the Premier League's statement is a powerful reminder of what an incredible industry and export the Premier League is for England - “Our competition is watched in 189 countries, 700,000 visitors to the UK per season attend a match, clubs employ 12,000 full-time staff and Premier League football generates £3.3bn per season in taxes.”