Could the English Premier League be the Latest Victim of Brexit?

For the first time since the Bosman ruling 21 years ago, European footballers are facing the possibility of being subjected to the UK’s strict immigration rules. The Bosman ruling is a 1995 European Court of Justice (ECJ) decision concerning freedom of movement for workers – in particular the case was an important decision on the free movement of labour and had a profound effect on the transfers of football players within the European Union. It was decided following the Bosman case that European footballers could play for any European club with limited restrictions on their movement.

However, if the UK votes to leave the European Union (EU) following the EU Referendum tomorrow, it is likely European footballers (and other EU sportspeople) will be subject to the stringent criteria imposed by the UK’s immigration points based system and they will lose the freedom afforded to them by the Bosman ruling.

Bosman Ruling by European Court of Justice

Before the Bosman ruling, international migration of football players was very limited. A quota system had been put in place that limited foreign player mobility. However, the Bosman ruling, which came into effect in December 1995, made the shocking move to remove quota barriers for EU nationals and they became “free” to move from European club to club with little restriction.

The Bosman ruling also facilitated the movement of footballers and coaching staff across Europe and allowed constant exchanges of coaches and football players. Commentators argue that this has allowed ideas to be shared between teams and has increased the love of football among the British society. Sadly for football fans, if the UK leaves the EU, many of the English Premier Leagues top stars such as Leicester City Midfielder Riyaz Mahrez, would not qualify to play in the UK.

EU Referendum: Consequences for European Footballers in the UK

The EU Referendum vote tomorrow, may have a substantial impact on British football. If the UK decided to leave the European Union, numerous British teams who have previously relied upon European talent to help them to deliver attractive football and trophies may struggle to replicate their previous successes. The English Premier League is home to more than 160 European footballers.  The UK has been fortunate to have entertained world class players such as Cristiano Ronaldo and Thierry Henry in the Premier League.

Voting out of European Union may potentially result in English football fans seeing a decline of players of that calibre coming to England. The development of football in China and USA may become an alternative option for European footballers if they are denied the right to play in the UK without restrictions. The question remains what will happen to English football if the UK decides to opt out.

Tier 2 Sportsperson Visa / Tier 5 Temporary Sporting Visa

Under the current UK immigration rules, all non-EU sportspeople are required to obtain a visa before coming to the UK to play for a British Club. Football clubs in the UK must first secure a Governing Body Endorsement before they can assign a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) to you. This can be under either the Tier 2 (Sportsperson) category  or Tier 5 (Temporary Worker Creative & Sporting) category.

In order for a Certificate of Sponsorship to be assigned, a UK sponsor will need to have obtained an endorsement for you from the appropriate governing body for your sport. The endorsement your sponsor obtains for you will have to confirm that:

  • you are internationally established as a player or coach at the highest level, and
  • your employment will make a significant contribution to the development of your sport at the highest level in the UK; and
  • you intend to be based in the UK for the duration of your permission to stay; and
  • your post could not be filled by a suitable settled worker

Due to the strict criteria in place, there have been cases where famous sports personnel have been refused entry into the UK. A controversial example is Joel Campbell a talented young footballer who signed for a prestigious English football club Arsenal.  The UK immigration rules may come across to be rigorous and it would be fascinating to see how many current European Footballers would pass these measures.

UK Immigration Advice for Tier 2 & Tier 5 Visa Applicants

Our team of solicitors and barristers bear in mind the paramount duty of all legal representatives to act in your best interest whilst complying with the strict letter of the law. Our team of specialists can be distinguished from other law firms with our client tailored approach and scrutiny of options available to you from the outset. We will be able to advise you in respect of the merits of your Tier 2 & Tier 5 application by providing you with advice from our leading team of barristers before your matter even reaches the Home Office. Our expert immigration solicitors provide business clients with a tailored service and are on hand to expedite the sponsor licence process. We ensure that we help you achieve and maintain an A rated sponsor licence and provide ongoing compliance checks to ensure you are aware of your duties as a Home Office registered sponsor.

If you have instructed legal representatives and you are unhappy with their conduct you can contact us to discuss your case so that we can provide you with a case assessment. To contact one of our Immigration Solicitors or Immigration Barristers please complete our legal case assessment form and we will get in touch or call us now on 02071830570 for a telephone assessment.

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