Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

What Would Happen to Boro's Foreign Legion in the Event of a Brexit Vote? AS the High-Stakes Referendum on Britain's Continued European Union Membership Looms Large Anthony Vickers Takes a Look at the Possible Impact a Vote to Leave Could Have on Football and on Boro

Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

What Would Happen to Boro's Foreign Legion in the Event of a Brexit Vote? AS the High-Stakes Referendum on Britain's Continued European Union Membership Looms Large Anthony Vickers Takes a Look at the Possible Impact a Vote to Leave Could Have on Football and on Boro

Article excerpt

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 who would have needed to apply for a permit and all but one - Cristhian Stuani - would have been refused automatic permits.

Two - Fernando Amorebieta and Emilio Nsue - would have footballing grounds for an appeal.

Uruguay international Gaston Ramirez is currently going through the application process after initially being rejected and we will see how he fares.

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.

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 heavilytattooed 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 an EU passport are subject to strict work permit rules based on international appearances and the FIFA ranking of their national team.

And if the 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", she added.

There is a counter-view among some fans and the FA that tighter restrictions will be beneficial in the long term as it will help local talent flourish - but it would also push fees up for a smaller pool of talented domestic players.

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. …

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