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EU Referendum: Will the football industry be better off in the union or out of it?

Tue 14th Jun 2016 | Football Governance

British football is obsessed by Europe, and this year is no exception. For not only will we be concerning ourselves with national team performances at Euro 2016, but anyone involved in running a club should also concern themselves with the impending referendum on whether the UK should leave the European Union.

So what does it mean for football? More paperwork for clubs buying European players, the price of replica shirts rising due to import taxes and even the possibility of the Bosman ruling not applying to British clubs. These are the apocalyptic, but possible, effects of the UK deciding to leave the EU if Brexit-eers get their way on 23rd June. We have asked both sides of the debate to tell you, in their own words, whether the football industry would be better off in the union or out of it. Here is what they have to say...

WILL STRAW BRITAIN STRONGER IN EUROPE - www.strongerin.co.uk

An early exit in France is one of two threats facing British football this summer. Whilst many fans are dreaming of glory at Euro 2016, the reality is that walking away from our membership of the European Union risks undermining the strength of our domestic leagues.

Research out earlier this year showed that if the UK wasn’t a member of the EU, more than 100 Premier League players could have failed to secure the necessary work permits to allow them to join their respective clubs. The reality of that means that the likes of Anthony Martial, Francis Coquelin, Dimitri Payet and N'Golo Kante could all have missed out on playing here because they didn’t have enough competitive international caps.

If we turn our backs on Europe, then we risk stemming the flow of players such as these and other talented European players coming to play for our clubs. Football fans want to see the best talent playing in the UK and membership of the EU allows that, so why give it up?

It’s a concern that has been echoed by Arsene Wenger who warned that a change in the approach to work permits as a result of Britain leaving the EU ‘would completely re-question the influx of foreign players.’ And Mr. Wenger has the agreement of West Ham United CEO, Karren Brady and Stoke City Chairman, Peter Coates who have warned against the potential impact on our game if Britain were to walk away from the EU.

The impact isn’t confined to the pitch either. Thanks to our EU membership, Brits currently enjoy the benefits of cheaper flights to more routes, access to free healthcare abroad and lower costs for using a mobile phone. Leaving the EU jeopardises all of these perks and could financially hit fans travelling to the EU to see their clubs play.

It’s also important to recognise how crucial EU funding is for football projects in the UK. Since 2014, the EU has given more than £2m to finance life changing sports initiatives, including the Homeless World Cup and The Football League Trust.

All of this and more is why the British public faces the biggest decision in a generation on 23rd June. Going into the referendum, we must ask whether we should put our trust in football experts such as Karren Brady, Peter Coates and Arsene Wenger – as well as numerous respected institutions such as the IMF, CBI, and TUC who argue that we should remain in Europe – or whether we take a leap into the dark.

So make sure your voice is heard this summer by registering to vote, and if you’re going to the Euros, then get your postal vote sorted to ensure you don’t miss out on having your say.

From the economy, to trade, investment, jobs and security we are stronger, safer and better off as members of the EU. Football is one of our greatest exports – let’s not risk throwing it all away on the basis of empty promises.

JONATHAN STUART VOTE LEAVE – www.voteleavetakecontrol.org

I believe that the EU has failed to tackle one of the big issues affecting British football. Our football leagues are a global success and we have hundreds of millions of fans worldwide following our teams. The sport is a really important part of our national economy - the Premier League alone is worth more than £5billion. But there is an elephant in the room.

Why, when we have so much British talent, do we employ so many overseas players, who are often pretty average and simply shouldn’t be playing for British clubs at this level? So many of these players are from the EU, which is unbalanced in itself. Our unfair immigration system in the EU means that we’re unable to get the cream of talent from around the world in the way that we might choose, yet we’re happy to compromise our own young people in Britain by signing up players from Europe at their expense. This is surely wrong!

Only around a third of players in the Premier League are British. We have to question why, when we’ve created footballing giants like Best, Lineker, Gazza and Bobby Moore, we’ve abandoned our great British footballers of tomorrow. I know my frustrations are shared by the parents of these aspiring players, who simply can’t understand why we’ve put the emphasis on signing up overseas players. Britain seems to be forgetting what makes us great, and that is our people.

Currently, The FA’s rules require non-EU footballers to have played a certain number of international games for their home country to qualify for an automatic work permit to come to the UK. However, thanks to the EU’s freedom of movement and the European Court of Justice’s Bosman ruling, these same standards cannot be applied to players from EU member states.

The FA’s own report into the decline of English footballing talent identified that the Bosman ruling ‘prohibited football leagues or football associations from limiting the number of nonnational EU players in league teams', thereby preventing domestic clubs and leagues from implementing policies to nurture domestic talent.

After we Vote Leave, we could choose to implement a policy where all non-UK footballers have to have played a set percentage of international games in order to get an automatic work permit. This would mean that we still attract the top talent from around the world, whilst ensuring UK players are not overlooked.

We’re not lacking talent here, yet we’re excluding an entire generation from pursuing their dreams of playing in one of our most important national sports, the beautiful game.

Football is a global sport and the Premier League is watched by millions all over the world. This will not change if we leave the EU. More and more Premier League teams are doing preseason tours to Asia and the Americas and looking to expand beyond the EU. As a country, we should be doing the same.

Editorial taken from fcbusiness Issue 93.

Words: Marc Webber

 

Posted by: Kev Howland 

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