FA proposes non-EU changes

The FA has proposed changes to the current system by which non-EU players are able to play in English football. 

The proposals are in a bid to reduce the numbers coming to England from next season by up to 50 per cent.

Changes were first proposed by FA Chairman Greg Dyke’s England Commission in May and over the summer discussions have taken place with the Home Office regarding the process for change. 

The system, called the Governing Body Endorsement (GBE) process, was introduced by the Home Office in 2008 to allow the governing body of each sport to manage a systematic objective approach for endorsing visa applications of elite players from non–EU countries.

The defined criteria are designed to result in visas only for those elite sportspeople ‘who are internationally established at the highest level whose employment will make a significant contribution to the development of their sport at the highest level in the UK’.

The FA has issued a consultative paper – which it is required to do under Home Office rules – suggesting detailed changes. These include:

  • Restricting GBE visa applications to Premier League clubs only. Currently Football League clubs can also apply and in the past four years 23 applications from Football League clubs have been successful.
  • Preventing players brought to Britain through the GBE visa system from being loaned out to other club.
  • Reducing the list of countries from which players can apply for GBE visas based on international playing record, from the current 70 top FIFA ranked countries to the top 50.
  • Easing – from 75% to 30%  – the percentage of competitive international matches that players from countries with FIFA ranking in the top 30 must have played in the past two years.
  • Introducing a transfer fee exemption to deliver GBE for elite players from any country, irrespective of FIFA ranking, if the transfer fee exceeds a minimum indexed figure, initially proposed to be £10m or £15m.
  • Scaling back the appeals system so that clubs may only appeal on the basis of incorrect process.  In the past appeal tribunals have been required to make subjective judgments on playing ability, which has resulted in nearly 80% of all appeals being successful after failing to meet the initial criteria.

There will now be consultations with the Premier League, The Football League. the PFA, the LMA and the national FA’s of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland as required by the Home Office. 

Following the consultations, The FA is planning to take a paper back to the Home Office later this year so that the new system could apply from the beginning of the 2015/16 system.