United Kingdom voters’ decision to have their nation secede from the European Union will have consequences for soccer in the British Isles and beyond. Exactly what those will be remains to be seen.
Questions about what happens next flowed from all points of society following the surprise Brexit announcement Friday. The U.K. won’t leave the EU for at least two years, and officials still must negotiate terms of Britain’s exit. Answers to the million-pound question will be forthcoming in the months and years to come, but one thing now is certain: Business as usual is a thing of the past, as we no longer are sure what “usual” is. Stability is out. Instability could become the new normal.
Despite Brexit, England’s Premier League will remain the most lucrative, and perhaps important, domestic league in world soccer for the foreseeable future. The soccer world’s enduring interest in England’s top flight and fans’ — particularly those inside the U.K. — insatiable interest in the product will ensure its No. 1 status. The Premier League said as much Friday in a statement.
“The Premier League is a hugely successful sporting competition that has strong domestic and global appeal,” the statement read, according to Sky Sports. “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.”
Britain’s exit from the EU is far from certain at this point. Prime minister David Cameron announced his resignation, and his successor must choose whether to invoke Article 50, which will trigger the U.K.’s legal exit from the EU.
Until that happens, let’s deal with the real-life repercussions of Brexit. Chief among them are:
The falling pound
The value of Britain’s currency relative to others has sharply declined since Friday, changing the prices of players around the world and British clubs overnight.
Foreign investors could jump at the chance to buy into or take over British clubs, as the declining pound lowers their prices.
The same goes for the values of British-based players on the global transfer market. Clubs from the EU and beyond will discover British-based players now are cheaper than they were before the Brexit vote.
But don’t expect them to turn the buyer’s market that is British soccer, particularly in the Premier League, into a seller’s market any time soon. British players don’t often travel for work, as market forces and personal preferences often preclude the more adventurous ones from doing so.
If British-based players, who receive their wages in pounds, convert their money into other major currencies, they’ll lose some of it because of the pound’s fallen value.
Premier League teams have imported players from abroad en masse in recent years. That could slow, as the cheaper pound makes buying players from abroad more expensive than it was before.
A potential shift in immigration rules could have the biggest effect on British soccer. EU players currently are eligible to work in Britain without a permit, but that will change if the U.K. builds walls on its borders.
EU players could be subject to the same restrictions non-EU players face, namely having to play a set percentage of games for their national teams in order to qualify for a work permit.
The trickle-down effect would be an increase in the number of domestic players and homegrown academy graduates at Premier League clubs. While the quality of the average player could dip, teams could improve through increased cohesion and higher spirit.
Of course, this all would be moot if Cameron’s successor or the British people walk back from their Brexit decision.
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