In the European Union, Article 39 of the European Community Treaty has enabled workers from member states to freely reside, remain and work in another member state indefinitely. On June 23rd, the United Kingdom held a referendum on whether it would remain in the EU. Despite early indications that the Remain campaign would emerge victorious, by the early hours of June 24th, the Leave campaign had gained an unassailable lead and the UK had indicated as a whole it’s desire to leave the EU. Significantly, the majority of England voted Leave, so let’s take a look at the ramifications of this for the Premier League. It is imperative that there is a realisation that the exit procedure is expected to be a long drawn out process, so there will be approximately 3-5 years before any changes begin to manifest.
What if the EU had not existed
Since the ‘BREXIT’ decision was verified, there have been publications stating that there are some 400 players who are currently plying their trade in England who would not have been eligible for work permits given the criteria set out for non-EU nationals. For years Barcelona have become resigned to some of their best talents from La Masia being pinched by their English counterparts due to Spanish laws forbidding professional contracts to players under 18. This allowed English teams to steal in and offer lucrative contracts to 16 year olds that their families that would often deem impossible to turn down. Unless they were guaranteed to break into the senior team by 18, it’s easy to see why many young players made the decision to leave. Gerard Piqué Bernabéu, Francesc Fàbregas Soler, and more recently, Héctor Bellerín Moruno and Gerard Deulofeu Lázaro all made the decision to move to England due to the lucrative wages, and more importantly acceleration into the first team. However, had the EU not existed and the current work permit regulations still stood, none would have got a work permit. Some would have been forced into a scenario of accepting the deal, but gaining first team experience out on loan in another country; something Liverpool are currently experiencing with the exciting Brazilian midfielder Allan Rodrigues de Souza.
Wake up call for the Football Association?
The English FA have become so engulfed in pumping money into improving the facilities of grass roots football, they have overlooked the core of the issue. In order to improve the quality of players, the quality of coaching requires similar, if not more, investment for England to get to a point where they can consistently challenge for the World Cup and European Cup. As the country that invented the sport, a return of only one World Cup, which was 50 years ago, is simply not good enough. There have been enough ‘Golden Generations’ for England to have at least graced another final. Representation of English players in the Premier League is simply not high enough with 65% of the league made up by foreigners. Not enough are regularly competing at the highest level at home, and in the elite competitions to improve the national team. It’s all well having the best facilities, but something is distinctly lacking. Looking at the South American contingent, there are players who grew up in poverty who understand that football may be their only option for a better life. Therefore, they are innately conditioned to strive for success more than their wealthier counterparts. The Germans and Italians have known this, and it is time for the English FA to follow suit. In order to be the best, they have to instill a specific mentality into the youth from as early as possible, that survival of the fittest is about how much you want it, as well as the technical level you possess.
Cesc Fabregas talks to Arsenal manager Arsenal Wenger during Arsenal Pre Season Training on July 24, 2004 in Bad Waltersdorf, Austria.
Cesc Fàbregas has expressed concern in what the BREXIT vote could mean for other players like him in the grand scheme of things. Cast your minds back to the 2003-04 season when Barcelona were a team in resurgence under Frank Rijkaard. A then 23 year old Xavier Hernández Creus, Xavi, was beginning to become a mainstay in the Barcelona midfield with the likes of Luis Enrique, Phillip Cocu and Edgar Davids for company. Another product of La Masia, Andrés Iniesta Luján, 19, was also beginning to get minutes so it is understandable why the Fàbregas camp ultimately decided it was the right time to jump ship and go abroad. The financial incentives and the promise of regular football would prove too hard for the young Spaniard to resist. There is an argument to consider that if players of Fàbregas’ quality don’t get the opportunity in the UK, will they develop at the same rate? The answer is maybe. In the current climate other EU states would be unable to offer the financial reward, even if the guarantee of starting was greater than what it was at the players current club. So the only conclusion that can be drawn at this moment in time is that we just do not know what the situation could be.
Make English Football Great
The FA should heed the kick to accelerate the development of the youth. Modernised facilities are great, but ultimately the development of grass roots football is dependent on the level of coaching, as well as, the facilities. The FA can neither wait nor rely on the terms that will be agreed on the UK exit from the EU in years to come. The time to act is now; English football needs to develop and move forward from now with the players available. Clubs need to spend enough time not only developing the players, but giving them a chance in the first team. It may have been beneficial to get younger players from abroad to develop, but for now clubs need to focus on the English youth to ensure they are in a strong position no matter the outcome. There is a need to breed more technical players like Jack Wilshere, as opposed to players who play with solely their heart. English football needs to develop a style that is capable of competing with the world’s best, and now is as good a time as any to start the process.