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  • Writer's pictureMax Lincoln

Changes to the EFL Work Permit GBE System

Introduction


As a football fan, you may watch your favourite team not having to worry about behind the scene on-goings, conversely you may be engulfed by what goes on behind that curtain. The following blog post will explore recent developments in the work permits regulations of the English Football League (EFL) and the impact this has on the player transfer market.


Following the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union in 2020, it became necessary for international players to obtain a work permit if they were to fulfil ambitions of playing in the EFL. The Football Association (FA) have since announced that these requirements have been eased.


The Governing Body Endorsement system explained


The FA’s official announcement following Brexit was as follows; this system applies to clubs in the Premier League, Championship, League 1 and 2.


Players must be granted a Governing Body Endorsement (GBE) in order to apply for a Tier 2 or Tier 5 visa to remain and work in the UK. GBE’s are awarded on a points-based system on the basis of the player’s appearances for club and/or country. Players who earn 15 points, or who show sufficient international experience, will qualify automatically for a GBE.


Players who earn 10-14 points may apply for an exemption if there were exceptional circumstances which prevented them from achieving 15 points.


The rules post-Brexit meant that English clubs were unable to register players who didn’t meet the GBE criteria. In practice, this was not much of an issue for bigger clubs as their transfer business was usually around targeting players with international experience; the GBE system would rarely need to be considered as the targets would naturally qualify.


In contrast, smaller clubs in the Premier League and those further down the pyramid into adopting a different transfer approach. For example, Brighton & Hove Albion recruited hidden gems such as Moises Caicedo and Kaoru Mitoma. Caicedo signed in January 2021, having recently been capped as an Ecuador international, while Karou was sent on loan to Union Saint-Gilloise, where he earned Japanese recognition, thus making him eligible for a work permit. Caicedo has since transferred to Chelsea for a British record £115 fee.


An important development by the FA


The FA have made a change to the GBE ruling in the English Football pyramid. As explained above, in a post-Brexit environment, it has become more difficult for players to obtain a work permit to play in the EFL. The FA’s recent changes allow clubs to sign players who don’t meet GBE criteria; clubs in both the Premier League and Championship will be able to add four players who don’t meet the criteria. As for League One and League Two, teams will be able to add two players who don’t meet GBE criteria to their squads.


Why did the changes occur?

The changes being implemented are significant for all parties involved in the EFL pyramid. It’s essential for clubs, players and agents to become familiar with the rules which will undoubtedly play a big part in future transfer windows. The FA have stated that they hope “the move provides additional access to exceptional international talent which falls outside the current GBE criteria”, with both “[the] Premier League and EFL…committed to work with the FA on improving the pathway for talented English youngsters as part of the new agreement.”


The new system is allegedly going to be monitored and kept under review, the FA highlighting that “if both are found to be working successfully, then it is possible the number of overseas players a club can sign who do not meet the regular GBE criteria could increase.”


Mark Bullingham, Chief Executive of the Football Association, suggested that “as English football's governing body, we oversee the whole football ecosystem, and we wanted to create a new model which would meet the different objectives of our football stakeholders.”


Conclusion

This is an integral change involving all professional clubs in England. With many people in the game already familiar with work permit regulations in the post-Brexit environment, the new procedure is unlikely to cause any significant disruption to transfer processes.


It’s always interesting to highlight the evolution of rules and their subsequent impact on clubs and players. As mentioned above, the loan of Karou Mitoma to Union Saint-Gilloise (wherein he achieved international recognition) was vital to his eventual transfer to Brighton and Hove Albion and later Chelsea.

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