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21 January 2021
In Home Office dialect, the term ‘Points-Based System’ holds sway. For almost twenty years, the term points-based immigration system has dictated the UK’s approach to its immigration policy. Points make prizes. The more points you gain the greater chance you have of the immigration department allowing you into this country.
So when the English Football Association (FA) needed to present the Home Office with a post-Brexit framework that their clubs would follow when signing overseas players, they stuck to the ‘winning formula’.
To determine which overseas players should be allowed to play in our top leagues they proposed the use of a points-based system which, as expected, gained the support of the Home Office.
How does it work?
The key part of the immigration process centres on the club acquiring a football Governing Body Endorsement (GBE) from The FA. The following criteria will apply for the remainder of the 2020/21 season:
- An automatic pass (or endorsement) is given to those players who have attained a specific percentage of appearances with the highest ranked international teams;
- In lieu of attaining an auto pass percentage, players will need to acquire 15 points based on criteria such as:
- the number of senior and youth international appearances;
- the quality of the selling club, based on the league they are in, league position and progression in continental competition;
- the number of club appearances, based on domestic league and continental competition minutes played.
A club may appeal to an exceptions panel to consider the application if the player achieves between 10 and 14 points and therefore falls short of the necessary threshold. A link to The FA’s regulations can be found here.
Calculating the points available based on the criteria requires some detailed analysis in terms of the player’s appearances, their current club’s performance and country’s status. We have set out below three hypothetical examples depicting how footballers playing in Europe and seeking a move to English clubs could earn points towards an endorsement from The FA:
Player Scenario 1:
Premier League side ABFC wish to sign a Maltese striker playing for SDFC in the German Bundesliga.
- Malta are ranked 176th in the FIFA World Rankings and the player in question has played in 90% of Malta’s International fixtures over the reference period. This scores 2 points.
- The player in question has played 62% of minutes available over the reference period for SDFC who are considered to be represented within a ‘Band 1’ league. This scores 9 points.
- The player has played in 50% of minutes available for his German club in the UEFA Europa League, a Band 2 competition. This scores 1 point.
- As SDFC qualified for the group stages of the UEFA Europa League through their Bundesliga position last season, a further 3 points are scored. An additional 5 points are then scored for the fact they went on to reach the group stage the following season.
- SDFC’s representation in the Bundesliga means 12 points are scored.
A total of 32 points has been scored in an application for a GBE which means they meet the qualifying criteria to make the application.
Player Scenario 2:
EFL Championship side MTFC wish to sign a French defender from SEFC in France’s Ligue 1.
- France are ranked 2nd in the FIFA World Rankings but the player is yet to have won an international cap so have not represented their country. This scores 0 points.
- The player in question has played 80% of minutes available over the reference period for his French club who are considered to be represented within a ‘Band 1’ league. This scores 11 points.
- SEFC did not qualify for a Continental competition so 0 points are scored.
- SEFC finished mid-table last season. This scores 1 point.
- SEFC’s representation in Ligue 1 means 12 points are scored.
A total of 24 points has been scored in an application for a GBE which means they meet the qualifying criteria to make the application.
Player Scenario 3:
EFL League 1 side PCFC wish to sign a Cypriot winger from CSFC in the Greek Super League.
- Cyprus are ranked 100th in the FIFA World Rankings and the player has played in 75% of his countries Internationals over the reference period. This scores 0 points.
- The player in question has played 50% of minutes available over the reference period for his club side who are considered to be represented within a ‘Band 4’ league. This scores 2 points.
- CSFC qualified for the Champions League through their league position. This scores 1 point.
- CSFC’s representation in the Greek Super League means 6 points are scored.
A total of 9 points has been scored in an application for a GBE. As this is below the 15 points required to qualify for a GBE and also below the 10 points required to request that an Exceptions Panel review the application, a GBE will not be granted for this player.
Following the award of a GBE
Once The FA grants an application for a GBE to an overseas player, the club is permitted to assign a Certificate of Sponsorship to their new recruit. A visa application under the immigration rules can then be made to secure the player entry to the United Kingdom as a T2 Sportsperson (or Tier 5 Temporary Worker if the GBE is awarded for less than twelve months).
As signing players from the EU without restriction is no longer an option for our elite clubs, we advise clubs to review the number of certificates of sponsorship they currently possess and decide whether they hold a sufficient number for their recruitment of overseas players. They should also follow the rules and criteria set out by The FA to ensure no errors are made in making an application for endorsement during this month’s transfer window.
It just goes to show Brexit has impacted every home in the UK, including the home of football.