The Football Association has confirmed that Premier League and EFL clubs will not be able to sign foreign players until they are 18 under new regulations that will be introduced upon completion of the Brexit transition period, with all new signings from European Union nations requiring a work permit that will be allocated on a points-based system.
The new regulations, which have been approved by the Premier League and English Football League, will also see Premier League clubs limited to signing no more than three players under the age of 21 in any single transfer window, meaning no more than six per season, in an effort to help produce homegrown talent in the professional leagues.
A joint-statement issued by the FA, Premier League and EFL confirmed that the regulations have been approved by the Home Office, and that they will come into effect from 1 January in time for the next transfer window, with Fifa’s current rules meaning that the end to free movement from the EU to the United Kingdom means that signing players under the age of 18 can no longer be permitted.
It confirms that a Governing Body Endorsement (GBE) will be required to sign for a club in the UK from 2021, with a points threshold required to be met in order for the player to be legally allowed to work in the UK. The points system will take into account international appearances at senior and youth level, the club that the player is joining from including their quality of league, position and continental success, and how many appearances and minutes the player has played in.
Players will be required to acquire 15 points to gain a GBE, and those who have played at least 70 per cent of international matches for a top 50-ranked nation over a two-year period (one year for youth players) will be automatically granted a GBE. That threshold will reduce depending on how high a nation is placed according to Fifa rankings with 21-30 requiring 60 per cent, 11-20 needing 40 per cent and the top 10 only 30 per cent.
Players who do not meet the threshold of 15 points may be allowed to join a club if an Exemptions Panel approves a club’s appeal on condition they scored between 10 and 14 points.
The statement read: “Post Brexit, clubs will not be able to sign players freely from the EU. Players from EU countries who want to play in the Premier League or EFL will be required to gain a GBE, like all other overseas players without the right to work in the UK.
“In the Premier League, the number of overseas U21 players a club can sign will be limited to three in the January transfer window and six per season moving forwards. This enables the recruitment of the best players from around the world to train and play together with homegrown talent.
“Under Fifa’s rules, the UK’s exit from the EU will also mean that clubs will not be able to sign players from overseas until they are 18.”
FA chief executive Mark Bullingham said: “Despite having different starting perspectives on how Brexit should impact football, this is another example of how the football authorities can work effectively together for the greater good of the game.
"We have a strong working relationship with both the Premier League and EFL and will monitor this new agreement together to ensure it evolves to best meet our joint objectives over time. We will also discuss improvements to the player pathway for the mutual benefit of football clubs and homegrown talent in this country.”
The agreement brings to an end four years of arguing between the FA and Premier League over squad limitations in post-Brexit Britain, with clubs initially cautious against agreeing to restrictions that could have prevented them from having access to Europe’s best players.
The FA has been keen to use the transition to help give homegrown young talent a bigger platform to develop on, though the governing body has conceded ground on its imposed limits as the addition of up to three under-21 signings per window falls in line with a number of clubs’ current strategies. However, the FA hopes that the limit on new signings combined with the inability to sign anyone under the age of 18 from abroad will avoid stockpiling at clubs that blocks the production line of future homegrown talents.
Richard Masters, the Premier League’s chief executive, added: “The Premier League has worked with the FA to come to an agreement to ensure no part of Brexit should damage the success of the Premier League, or the prospects of the England teams. We welcome the news that the Home Office has approved the Governing Body Endorsement plan for the January 2021 transfer window.
“Continuing to be able to recruit the best players will see the Premier League remain competitive and compelling and the solution will complement our player development philosophy of the best foreign talent alongside the best homegrown players. Following the January transfer window, we look forward to reviewing the agreement with the FA.”
The new regulations will be reviewed after next summer’s transfer window, and the under-21 restrictions will only apply to Premier League clubs, meaning that sides in the Championship, League One and League Two will be able to sign as many players between 18 and 21 as they like so long as they meet the GBE threshold.
Female sides will also be held to a similar model, although international youth team appearances will not be taken into account under the current guidelines.