English FA to restrict imports of foreign players

The English Football Association has announced a package of proposals aimed at reducing by 50% the number of players from outside the European Union (EU) who enter English football and making it easier for home-grown players to succeed.

In a consultative paper, as required by the British Home Office legislation that covers visa applications by footballers, the Football Association (FA) on Wednesday put forward six detailed changes it hopes to see made to the current Governing Body Endorsement (GBE) system.

These include restricting GBE applications to Premier League clubs, banning loans for these players and restricting the list of countries permitted to use the system to the top 50 in Fifa’s rankings, unless a transfer fee of more than a specified sum – £10-million or £15-million – is paid.

The plans would have a direct impact on the lower tiers of English football, below the Premier League, and the import of players from Africa, Asia and North and South America, including Argentina and Brazil.

The reforms are part of an overhaul of English football being recommended by the England Commission think-tank, said FA chairperson Greg Dyke. He added that a further announcement of proposed changes, aimed at stimulating the England national team’s performance, will follow in October.

‘System is bust’
“Everyone recognises the present system is bust,” Dyke told Sky Sports News. “The rules say elite non-European players – the very best – should be allowed to come in and we agree with that.

“What we are saying is there are a lot that aren’t [the very best], that don’t play that much and do take squad places and a lot, particularly in the Football League, disappear after a year or so. The system doesn’t work at the moment.

“What we are saying is, ‘Let the best players come in, but give the rest of those squad places to young English kids’.

“We still have the problem of good kids aged 17 and 18 and they are not getting enough competitive football. So, we are still looking at how to improve that position.”

The FA said the Home Office introduced the GBE system in 2008 to allow sport governing bodies to manage a systematic objective approach for endorsing visa applications of elite players from non-EU countries.

Only the elite
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 said on www.thefa.com.

It revealed that 23 applications from Football League clubs for GBE visas had been successful.

The plan suggested easing the required proportion of competitive international matches that players from the top 30 Fifa-ranked nations must have played in the past two years from 75% to 30%.

The FA said it will initiate a consultative process with leagues and national and professional associations before returning to the Home Office with a final paper later this year.

The English game’s governing body said it hoped the new system would apply for the 2015-2016 season. – Reuters

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