THE vote to leave the EU could have damaging consequences for football’s Premier League and other leading sports in Britain.
There are currently 432 European footballers registered with Premier League clubs, all of whom under EU law are free to work and live in Britain.
Those players will not have to leave, but any new European players coming into this country to play football could now be subject to the same immigration rules as non-EU players.
That means that in the future any European footballer, whether they are one of the biggest names in the game or a lower-league player heading to a League Two club, will have to have a work permit.
To be granted a work permit, any player from top-10 nation has to have played in 30 per cent of a club’s games in the two years prior to the date of application.
Britain’s decision to leave the EU could decrease the number of European players plying their trade in England’s top flight, which could damage the Premier League’s global status as one of the most attractive competitions in world sport.
The flip side of that coin is that it may benefit young English players whose path to the top is currently blocked by the influx of cheaper foreign players.
Football Association chairman Greg Dyke said today: “My position has always been that the decline in the number of English players getting through the system into first teams in the Premier League is a shame and we’re now down to 30 per cent.
“If it (the vote to leave) stops that it is to be welcomed, it if increased the number of English players it is to be welcomed.
“But you don’t want to lose the best of the European players coming to play here.”
A Premier League spokesman said: “The Premier League is a hugely successful sporting competition that has strong domestic and global appeal. This will continue to be the case regardless of the referendum result.
“Given the uncertain nature of what the political and regulatory landscape might be following the ‘Leave’ vote, there is little point second-guessing the implications until there is greater clarity.
“Clearly, we will continue to work with Government and other bodies whatever the outcome of any process.”
Other team sports, like rugby union, could also see a decrease in players coming across the Channel from France, if they have to obtain work permits.