Before our summer break I wrote about the possible consequences to the English Premier League of Brexit (see here). Now that the outcome of the referendum has emerged, a number of things could happen, once the United Kingdom triggers Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty and leaves the European Union.
The Bosman ruling will no longer apply. This ruling was passed by the European Court of Justice in November 1995. Under EC Treaty Article 45 (1) of the Treaty on the functioning of the European Union, all EU football players are permitted to move freely at the end of their contracts, with the provision that they are transferring from a club within one EU Association to a club within another EU Association. Clubs in the UK will no longer be subject to this ruling.
Of the top five leagues in Europe, the Premier League has imported the most EU players from outside it its own borders; more than 1 in 3 players during the 2015-2016 season. This compares to 1 in 5 in the Bundesliga, 1 in 7 in La Liga and just 1 in 14 in France’s Ligue 1. These players could now be treated like all non-EU signings by Premier League clubs.
The rules regarding the signings of non-EU players have been tightened in recent years by the Home Office with players generally (exceptions can be made on appeal) having to 1) played at least 75% of all competitive ‘A’ matches for their country, for which they were available for, over the two seasons prior to the proposed transfer and 2) be from a country that has achieved a minimum average position of 70th in the FIFA World Rankings for the two previous years.
Had these rules already been applied to EU players, the likes of Dimitri Payet, N'Golo Kanté and Anthony Martial would not have been permitted to play in England. Something similar to the “Three Foreigners Rule” may also re-emerge.
Irish players will need to continue to perform well on the international stage. The draw with Sweden and win over Italy should give the FIFA world ranking a big lift. However, this time two years ago the Republic of Ireland were ranked 70th in the world. While unlikely, a sustained decline in performances for a number of years could result in problems for Irish players playing in the Premier League, if the international team’s relative success doesn’t continue.