What will happen to the Premier League post-Brexit?
LONDON – Brexit is a word that brings with it aspects of uncertainty, especially within English football and its money driver the Premier League.
Football's January transfer window closes on the same day Britain begins the formal process for a withdrawal from the European Union on Friday.
If the government decides to go for a hard Brexit without any deal, that could make it much harder for football clubs to sign European players along with significant restrictions on finances.
Currently, players from within the European Economic Area (EEA) can sign for an English club without needing a work permit. Players from outside this border like South American natives do require work permits, but they have to meet strict criteria.
This criteria includes how well represented a player has been for his native country at international level in the two years prior to the move.
The higher the percentage of international games they have played according to where the country is in FIFA rankings, the more chance they have of gaining automatic qualification for a work permit. The criteria also takes into account the transfer fee from the club and the player's wages.
For example, Tottenham Hotspur might not have been able to sign Dutch forward Steven Bergwijn from PSV Eindhoven on Wednesday because the 22-year-old has only been capped nine times for the Netherlands at international level.
The Premier League is the richest in the world with global broadcast rights reaching the billions and with five clubs in Manchester, Liverpool and London making up half of the world's top 10 wealthiest clubs.
Part of the reason for that is the league attracts the world's top players such as Manchester City's Argentina striker Sergio Aguero, Manchester United's French midfielder Paul Pogba or Liverpool's Dutch star defender Virgil van Dijk.
Britain's withdrawal from the European Union could weaken the pound against the euro, and with stricter permit rules possibly in place, the best European talent could turn their backs on England and head towards Italy or Spain. This could have a knock-on effect to the Premier League's claim of the 'most watched league in world football' if that were to happen.
In a battle for a key signing between Manchester City and Barcelona, in the case of Brexit, Barcelona could be more favourable in terms of financial strength and working stability.
When big-money signings aren't available, clubs often scout for the next up and coming youthful players between the ages of 16 and 18. Under current FIFA regulations, movement of teenage players between two European Economic Area countries is allowed but after January 31, this would be near impossible because of Britain's new status.
"There's a lot of confusion," the Daily Telegraph quoted Jake Cohen, a sports lawyer who orks with clubs, as saying.
"I'd advise the clubs, if you identify the player and you have everything put in place definitely pull the trigger now. Don't leave it to chance with FIFA, especially when there's no real guidance."
Owen Jones, a specialist in immigration sports law from the law firm Sheridans, told the paper: "My understanding is that this window will be the last opportunity for clubs to sign 16 and 17-year-olds, unless something changes in terms of the FIFA regulations."
However, this could be seen as a positive for the Football Association in regards to its plans of limiting overseas talent in squads of 25 from 17 to 12 to make way for emerging home grown players. It could benefit the England national side in helping identify new internationals that could fill any gaps left by injuries.
It works the other way too. What would happen to British overseas players like Dortmund's Jadon Sancho or Real Madrid's Gareth Bale? Could they be permitted to continue playing abroad?
Could the Premier League's marketing power be overtaken by Spain's La Liga or Italy's Serie A?
The answers to these questions have no solid solution yet and we may not have those answers for a while, because after three years of Brexit back-and-forth, anything can happen.dpa