Borexit: EU Need A Work Permit To Play Here Mate

NO DANI  Ayala. No Emilio Nsue. No Tomas Kalas. No Kike. No Ritchie De Laet. No Diego Fabbrini. No Aitor Karanka. No Leo. Boro may have looked very different last season without the free movement of labour inside the European Union.

Without the social and economic mobility granted by an EU passport, none of those would have qualified for a work permit under current UK employment law.  They would all have had to apply as foreign nationals and be measured against the tough entry criteria set by the Department of Employment. And all would undoubtedly fail under the existing rules.

In fact, last season Boro had 17 players on their books that would have needed to apply for a permit and all but one – Cristhian Stuani – would have been refused automatic permits.


            Granted: Stuani celebrates cruising through the work permit procedure

Two – Fernando Amorebieta and Emilio Nsue – would have footballing grounds for an appeal. although they may be on shaky ground.  Two more – Dimi Konstantopoulos and Ritchie De Laet – would have grounds for an appeal on the basis of long term residence and employment in the UK with a spouse and families who are citizens.

But the rest would fall well short of the criteria and would be refused a work permit.

And that could be the shape of things to come should the UK vote to leave the European Union in the epoch defining referendum later this month.

How individual supporters feel about the wider political,  economic, social and cultural dimensions  is part of a heated national discourse right now as the vote looms.  But it is probably worth looking closer at how such a seismic shift  may impact the game. It is my job to consider these things after all.  And it could be a game changer for clubs.

A Brexit vote may have ‘devastating consequences” on the English game.  That stark warning has been issued by West Ham big wig Karren Brady as a pivotal ballot looms that could lead to a seismic shift in the UK’s legal relationship with Europe.

The damage to football will come if a post-divorce settlement ends free movement of labour across the continent.  Because, while our heavily tattooed heroes are lavishly rewarded beyond our dreams, footballers are still workers subject to the UK’s employment law – and that could be radically rewritten.

As it stands, British clubs can sign EU nationals whether they are born in Saltburn or Salzberg without any hindrance  but those without a European passport are subject to strict work permit rules based on international appearances and the FIFA ranking of their national team.

And if the EU right of free movement is rescinded then those restrictions will apply to European players too – and that will shrink the pool of available talent and push transfer fees up giving the bigger, richer clubs a market advantage.

Hammers vice-chairman Brady, part of the Britain Stronger in Europe campaign, has written to the chairmen of every professional club in England, Scotland and Wales to outline what would happen if the UK votes to leave.

“For clubs, free movement plays a big role in transfers and players’ contracts,” she wrote.

“Players from the EU can sign for UK clubs without needing a visa or work permit, making it quicker and easier to secure top talent from across Europe to come and play in our leagues.

“Indeed, there are nearly 200 Premier League footballers alone who have benefited from this arrangement. Leaving the EU could have a big impact. Two-thirds of European stars in England would not meet automatic non-EU visa criteria .  Losing unhindered access to European talent would put British clubs at a disadvantage compared to continental sides.”

There is a counter view among some fans and the FA that tighter restrictions will be beneficial in the long term and will create openings  in senior sides and help local talent flourish . Many supporters instinctively cherish home grown heroes and in an ideal would want to see their team packed with hungry kids who share their accent.

Agent Rachel Anderson added: “Leaving the EU will have a much bigger effect on football than people think.  We’re talking about half of the Premier League needing work permits. The short-term impact would be huge but you could argue it will help in the long term as it could force clubs to concentrate on home-grown talent.”

But there is an opposite demand too. Fans want to see their club win. They want to compete.  And that means signing the best  players possible and the history of the game has been ever expanding horizons.  Clubs now scout extensively home and abroad to find quality footballers  that can give them an edge at a price they can afford .

And there’s the rub. Cost. Restricting the pool of talent may foster more home grown players but demand would also  fees and wages up for domestic players and that gives the bigger, richer clubs a market advantage.



Last season Boro used 18 foreign born players who had work permits granted as EU citizens.  Only one would qualify automatically under the new rules if European free movement of labour was ended.  That squad caught in a red tape wrangle:

Dimi Konstantopoulos – Greek national, 1 cap. Would not qualify automatically. Would probably win an appeal due to residence (he has lived in the UK for 13 years) and an English spouse.

Damia Abella – Spanish national, uncapped. Would not qualify.

Dani Ayala – Spanish national, 1 Under-21 cap. Would not qualify.

Kike Garcia – Spanish national, 7 Under-20 caps. Would not qualify.

Tomas Mejias – Spanish national, 6 Under-20 caps. Would not qualify.

Emilio Nsue – Spanish-born national, declared for Equatorial Guinea, 12 caps. Has played over 75% of games in the past two years but his nation are currently ranked 76th by FIFA. Would not get a permit but would be granted leave to appeal. Would need to show ‘exceptional ability.’

Tomas Kalas – Czech national, 3 caps. Would not qualify.

Yanic Wildschut – Dutch national, 10 Under-21 caps. Would not qualify.

Carlos de Pena – Uruguay national, Italian passport holder, uncapped. Would not qualify

Julien De Sart – Belgian national, 6 Under-21 caps. Would not qualify.

Ritchie De Laet – Belgian national, 2 caps. Would not qualify. Would possibly win an appeal due to residence (has lived in the UK for nine years ) and an English spouse.

Kike Sola – Spanish national, 1 Under-21 cap. Would not qualify.

Michael Agazzi – Italian national, uncapped. Would not qualify.

Cristhian Stuani – Uruguay national, Italian passport holder, 30 Uruguay caps. Has played 60% of games over past two years for a nation currently ranked ninth.  Would be granted a permit.

Diego Fabbrini – Italian national, 1 cap. Would not qualify

Bruno Zuculini – Argentinian national, Italian passport, 8 Under-20 caps. Would not qualify.

Fernando Amorebieta – Spanish-born national, declared for Venezuela, 15 caps. Had played over 60% of games in the two years before his international retirement but his nation is ranked 77th. He would not be granted a permit automatically but would be granted leave to appeal and would have eto show ‘exceptional ability’.

(**Rhys Williams is an Australian-born citizen and international but has dual nationality due to his English born Welsh father and would not need to apply.)


According to a Guardian analysis of the top two tiers in England and the Scottish Premiership, a total of 332 players would fail to meet the current standards if they applied for permits as foreigners now.

A hefty 117 of last season’s Premier League players would be affected with Aston Villa, Newcastle and Watford all losing 11 players from their squads.  Watford and Sunderland had eight who would fail; Stoke Southampton and West Ham seven; Leicester six; Arsenal, Manchester United, Liverpool and Manchester City five; Bournemouth and West Brom four; Chelsea, Spurs, Everton and Norwich three; and Crystal Palace one.

Among stars who would not automatically qualify are Chelsea’s Cesar Azpilicueta, Manchester United’s Juan Mata and Morgan Schneiderlin; Manchester City’s Jesús Navas and Samir Nasri and Liverpool’s Simon Mignolet.


Rejected:  Juan Mata may not qualify under post-Brexit rules

Outside the top flight, Charlton would have been the hardest hit with 13 players who would fail.  Only 23 of the 180 non-British EU players in last year’s Championship would qualify for work permits – and most of those are former internationals from Ireland or Commonwealth nations with British passports.

And North of the border it would be worse as none of the 53 non-British EU players in the Scottish Premiership last season would qualify for a permit on the basis of their international career alone.

England’s lower league are just as badly affected with 63 non-British EU players in League One and 46 in League Two who would not qualify.


Until last year the rules meant players without an EU passport had to have played in 75% of their national side’s competitive games over the previous two years and for a nation ranked in FIFA’s top 70.

There was an appeals procedure for exceptional players from lower-ranked nations and/or players who may have missed international call-ups because of injury.

That explains how useful old colonial links are. Brazilians often qualify for a Portuguese passport while several other South American countries have links with Spain or Italy and many African players can claim French nationality.

Those routes to Britain could be closed after a Brexit.

New criteria were introduced this year after lobbying by the FA hoping to make it harder for foreign players to get permits and create openings for domestic talent while also make it easier for clubs to recruit internationals from top nations.

Players from EU member states and from the European Economic Zone, – a  looser, wider grouping of  nations signed up to freedom of movement, which includes Norway, Iceland and Switzerland  – do not need a work permit  but any prospective player from outside those countries would need to apply.  Some would qualify automatically if they meet the following quality criteria based on the international apedigree.

A player from a top-10 ranked nation now only has to have played in 30% of games in the previous two years to automatically qualify for a permit.

A player from a nation ranked 11-20 needs to have played in 45% of international games.

That rises to 60% for the next 10 ranked countries, then the benchmark rises  to 75% of games for nations ranked 31-50 to qualify

A vote to leave would mean that players from the 27 countries still in the union would now need to meet these criteria.

None of these new rules would kick in immediately. It seems likely the trade and employment terms of any new exit settlement could take years to thrash out so a provisional system may be put in place for EU nationals applying for work permits.

And existing contracts would be honoured anyway. No-one will be deporting players.

But, beyond the short term, signing EU nationals will be harder and giving existing players new deals may mean a new – and many would be refused.



AND with last year’s second half of the season scheming spark Gaston Ramirez set t to have a work permit application rejected and  facing an appeal – “a red tape wrangle” – here’s  a bit I did on the whole procedure, the entry criteria, the points totting up system on appeal and the international weightings.  It’s interesting.




688 thoughts on “Borexit: EU Need A Work Permit To Play Here Mate

  1. One thing I will say about the whole mess is that if people think the invasion was about oil then that is way off the mark.

    As we can see from the dealings between Turkey and ISIL, trade will occur.

    If Iraq’s oil was the main driver then deals would have been done between oil companies and Iraq. Petrol guzzling USA would have found a way, a trade deal would have been better for US interests than a war putting supplies at risk .

    Awaiting incoming.

  2. Spartak said on the 6th of July at 13.40

    ‘Let us say that all the procedures and mechanisms are in place to successfully engage in a war. However, the war itself is an act of aggression as laid out by definition in the UN. What then? In the event of the war in Iraq our very own PM of the time decided in his wisdom to ignore the world governing body because it would support he and his friends plans. This is unwarranted, illegal intervention. An act of aggression against a sovereign state. What is to stop the strongest preying on the weak if we as a nation fail to acknowledge and support the very same rules we as a nation created for the good of all. And what is there to stop another nation using the same premises to attack our nation or interests and sayin ‘Well you don’t follow the rules, why should we?’’

    I now refer my learned posters to:

    I thank you!

    1. Sparta
      he was the Prime minister, of course he was responsible. He was also responsible for everything that happened on his watch, both good and bad, that’s the only deal on the table when you become PM. There will be many many idiots pulling strokes, and crimes, and misdeeds, all in the name of your government, all in your name. Quite what those citizens who devoted six years of their lives to restore some sort of order to the world think of ordinary Brits throwing wild paddies over a silly little war in a far away country, and worse, going on about it for years of their lives. Quite mad.
      as for the implied rule, that if your child chooses to make a career in the armed forces, you, their parent can direct the foreign policy of the country, strange one, that. Does that rule apply if you work for M and S?

  3. I still think the point of Chilcot should have been to determine why the UK needed to have ‘symbolic’ involvement in the Iraq war in the first place. The US could have and would have gone to war in Iraq whether the UK joined them or not – the UK were not needed.

    Perhaps it was to simply avoid having the UK in a position that if they didn’t join in then as both a NATO and a Permanent Security Council member it would have given the impression of being against the intervention rather than just not willing to join in.

    So in the end it was always going to be more of a political decision to go to war rather than a strategic decision based on a perceived threat to the UK. So even though it shouldn’t, I wonder if being the second largest member of NATO somehow makes such decisions both expected and inevitable for a British PM.

    1. Just to add a small point to the previous post – After 9/11 the UK declared it would stand shoulder to shoulder with the US and essentially went along with US foreign policy seemingly to the detriment of it’s own standing.

      Fast forward to 2016 and the US declared that the UK would be at the back of the queue when it comes to a trade deal following Brexit – perhaps that should focus minds in any future UK government about the special relationship being mainly a one-way street.

      1. Werdermouth

        Some have called the UK the poodle of the USA. I’m not so sure the USA is that inclinded to care so much for its pet now that the UK is leaving the EU. The Chinese aren’t so impressed either. Seems like the UK is in the doghouse. I reckon both ‘Superpowers’ won’t be calling on Queenie anytime soon for tea and biccies at Buck Palace.

        If Chilcot said anything I think he describes a nation whose belief in that they are a someone is infact much larger than it actually is.

  4. George Galloway thinks The Pope should get involved in castigating Tony Blair via the Catholic Church.

    File under, you couldn’t make it up.

    1. I believe the Catholic Church of old was into burning heretics at the stake, GHW, castration is now sooo yesterday. Gnostic sects and the cults of Demeter enjoyed the act.

      Reports were that Tony used to skulk around back alleys gaing entrance to the wee small portholds of Catholic churches at the back. Hmmmm!

      The priests were inclinded to tell him to come in the front like ordinary folk or not come at all.

      And this man was the MP for Sedgefield.

      1. Sparta
        loved your remark ” and this man was MP for Sedgefield”. Is this the new standard of shock horror fainting fits?
        think before you make any definitive statements. Some poor oaf will be tormented on holiday by Cameron, and then someone will inform him that his problem friend was once prime minister of Britain. How bizarre is that?

      2. Plato

        I made a remark pre- Brexit that there would be panic and chaos in the UK after the vote. In addition I suggested that ‘come Chilcot’ there would be blood spilt, metaphorically speaking.

        I can’t imagine the good citizens of Sedgefield (where I have numerous relatives in residence and family going back over 150 years ago) would have thought they would elect a man who showed so much promise and offered so much hope, only to see that his head was turned by power and fall so far from grace.

        I believe it was emperors and generals who when accepting a tribute for great conquests would have an assistant walking behind them speaking into their ear and saying ‘you are mortal, you are mortal’!

        Tony let it all get to him amd he lost touch with reality – with his denials, it shows he still can’t quite accept the decisions he made and the cost to millions that they have had to pay.

        He contributed to destroying a monster but created a hydra instead.

        In restitution he should retreat to a monastry,give all his wealth and possessions to charity, and spend the rest of his days in pray and penitence.

  5. Spartak

    I can’t get my head around remarks like that. You are acting as though the entire affair were of some importance, and I believe you have been on about it to anyone who would listen for several years now. That has got to be silly. The entire history of government in all countries is the history of petty squabbles. If you are elected Prime minister, depend on it, you will have decisions to make, decisions that have no right answer, and will surely get you a lot of abuse.

    The worrying thing is the sheer selectivity of the obsessed. If you wanted to throw your dummy out of the pram you should choose Afghanistan. A known heavyweight country with a border in common? Utterly ruthless, without whining citizens, well, not live ones. Prepared to do what was required, whatever the body count. Took the job on. Ten? Years later they pulled out having made not the slightest mark on the country. It was still a desert of rights, humanity, any concept of a decent life for the general public, and above all, more than ready to take on anyone from anywhere.

    I haven’t heard a single word from anyone in criticism of that adventure. Surely any one killed in that area, or mangled up, was a wasted life, no?

    1. Plato

      The decision to go into Afganistan was like the case of Iraq- it was decided long before it was announced to the public.

      There was one guy who became a problem because he’d previously been on the ground and had the military nous to know it was a disaster waiting to happen. They destroyed his reputation live on air on the BBC to ensure a) they shut him upand b) no one believed what he had said. Helmand belongs to the Taliban now just as it did before the first US/UK boot hit the ground.

      It isn’t just about one war, it’s about many. A series of engagements across the globe, undertaken for various reasons but one common denominator – the decision makers are not fit for purpose. They don’t consider the real life and death implications of their decisions nor do they care. They are inhibited by their own selfish aims and disregard the lives of all and sundry who are effected.

      They think they know but are without real knowledge. They think they can see but they are blind. The result is suffering for millions.

      1. Sparta
        at least you are now including every petty squabble, about a hundred since the second world war, that is a start, now, to be consistent you must select one person to be solely responsible for each one of those squabbles. You have some work on your hands.
        by the way, Blair took responsibility for the decision in the interview after the report was published.
        Strange thing, and no, I have no answer, when Africa was one enormous animal reserve, with, of course, strange white people telling them what to do, the greatest thing to happen to them was to get their freedom, yes?
        look at them now, even those that made a smooth transition to being a real nation, with laws and things, are, sadly, descending into chaos, Kenya, anyone.
        The world is a hard and brutal place and often people are only good because of fear of retribution. So the message is go easy on the one who tries to keep the peace

      2. Plato

        There is no such thing as a ‘petty’ war to those whose relatives have died, to those who lose limbs, to those who become homeless and lose their livelihoods.

        There is no ‘peace’ to be had when your city is destroyed and you have to flee leaving all that you worked for broken and abandoned.

        You suggested that the Iraq War was not about oil – how foolish! Of course it was about oil and the vast profits the elite Americans (not the poor of course). Today an article in a national newspaper reports that the aim was regime change and whole sale political and economic change. This is illegal under agreements made in the Hague and Geneva and exactly what was done. This benefitted oil companies in the US and UK.

        Kofi Annan said it was illegal. Now Prezza says the same. Robin Cook resigned at the time. But the clock is ticking for Tony -their is much blood on his hands and although it may take years he will find himself behind bars and the 100 000’s who died and suffered because of his stupidity will have belated justice.

        Just saying like

  6. Plato

    “The world is a hard and brutal place and often people are only good because of fear of retribution. So the message is go easy on the one who tries to keep the peace”

    That could apply to Gaddafi, Saddam and today Bashar al Assad in Syria depending on opinion and whose rebels the west are arming this week. That region of the world could not and cannot be politicised with Western rationale and logic, the mindsets and tribal nature of its populous have a totally different cultural view on what is freedom and what is justice in their eyes.

    Blair and Bush’s intervention destabilised an entire region and in the end like Afghanistan later they hadn’t a clue what to do with it and their popularity and that of their successors was not best served by leaving their troops in the region long term. Creating carnage and chaos and then walking away leaving a bigger mess behind than when they started.

    Libya is now a disaster zone run by zonal paramilitaries and now does a good line in people trafficking. Iraq is now leaderless and the homeland of Isil, created by the vacuum left by the removal of Saddam. They are armed courtesy of weapons the West left behind to an ill trained, ill prepared and disorganised amateur Iraqi army. Syria seemed to be heading for the exact same fate until Putin stepped in and reversed the punitive measures on Assad and brought the battle to the rebels who the West had been arming and who in many if not most cases appear to be Isil. Strange how western news agencies have gone very quiet on the subject when they were all gung ho not so long ago when the West were removing Assad’s arsenal of chemical weapons and we were supporting those poor rebels.

    None of those three gentlemen (Gaddafi, Saddam and Assad) were good guys per se but they kept a lid on Pandora’s box in a Middle Ages sort of way. When you understand the cultures and mind sets then its easier to grasp how and why being nice, open and democratic doesn’t work. Interesting how other nations in the same region seem to be immune and accepted despite their record on slave labour, public executions and how what is happening in Yemen doesn’t even get reported here unless you dig for it!

    All those billions spent on killing, bombing and maiming could have been one heck of an incentive to encourage small but gradual changes within those regimes and moved the region forwards instead of putting it back literally 500 years or more, integration instead of alienation. Blair and Bush should have had better research and intelligence and listened to people who were telling them what the reality actually was, there again it seems they did but those who did have the intelligence were shut up (literally it would seem in some cases).

    If they had went easier on the guys who kept the relative peace albeit not a great peace but a more stable peace than the chaos and suffering that reigns today the world would be a much better and safer place.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s