New Work Permits for English Football

31st Dec 2020

The English transfer window opens on Saturday 2nd January however the eligibility of European players being able to play in the English football leagues has dramatically changed.

This is the first transfer window for many years that an EU national does not get an automatic pass, in light of Brexit. In the past if you had an EU passport or were entitled to one, you were in even if you did not live in Europe. This paved the way for South Americans who had European passports from the likes of Italy , Portugal or Spain to be able to sign for English clubs with ease however South Americans without EU passports would struggle to meet the criteria to be eligible.

Previously a non EU national would only get an automatic pass into English football if they were a regular national team player in the previous 2 years for a top FIFA ranked team. The FA, recognising that it is more difficult for younger players to break into their senior national teams, reduce the calculation period to one year for players under the age of twenty-one.

The required percentages of competitive senior international matches are determined by that country’s FIFA World Ranking over the relevant one or two-year period as follows:

FIFA Ranking 1-10: you must have played in 30% and above of games for the previous 2 years

FIFA Ranking 11-20: 45% and above

FIFA Ranking 21-30: 60% and above

FIFA Ranking 31-50: 75% and above

Using an example of Brazil who are currently ranked 3rd in the world , a Brazilian national would have had to have played in 4 games of the last 12 competitive matches (i.e friendlies not included).

Turning to a Paraguay international who are ranked 34th currently a player would have had to have played in 75% of competitive games in the past 2 years to be automatically eligible.

If a person was a non EU passport holder and didn’t qualify automatically then there was an appeals panel based on a number of criteria for accumulation of points. Generally if a player got 6 or points they would be in, although 4 was the unofficial number for real consideration.


Criteria Points

The transfer fee paid for the player is above the 75th percentile of qualifying transfers.   3

The transfer fee paid for the player is between the 50th and 75th percentile of qualifying transfers 2

The player’s wages are above the 75th percentile of qualifying wages.     3

The player’s wages are between the 50th and 75th percentile of qualifying wages.            2

The player’s current club is in a top league and the player has played in at least 30% of available minutes.               1

The player’s current club has played in the group stages or onwards of a continental competition within the last 12 months and the player has played in at least 30% of the available minutes.            1


Therefore a player such as Bernardo of Brighton who we brought to the Premier League club got 6 points and qualified for the Governing Body Endorsement from the FA. He had played in the Bundesliga for Leipzig, he had played in the Champions league and the transfer and wages got further points.

There is now a new criteria which is not the same points based system. European citizens will need a visa to work in the country. The criteria determining who qualifies have been the subject of lengthy negotiations between the Football Association, Premier League and EFL which were only agreed a month ago not giving clubs much time to adapt any many clubs that I have spoken to have said the new rules are a shock and their plans for signing players this winter have gone out of the window due to potential targets no longer qualifying.

There are now league bands , categorising different leagues into how the FA see them stack up against each other in terms of ability it seems.

Band 1 leagues which carry the highest ppints are the English Premier League, the German Bundesliga, Span’s La Liga, Italy Serie A and France’s Ligue 1.

Band 2 means the Portuguese Primeira Liga, Holland’s Eredivisie, Belgian First Division A, the Turkish Super Lig and the English Championship.

Band 3 means the Russian Premier League, Brazil Série A, Primera División of Argentina, Mexico’s Liga MX and the Scottish Premiership.

Band 4 means the Czech First League, Croatian First Football League, the Swiss Super League, La Liga 2, Bundesliga 2, Ukrainian Premier League, the Greek Superleague, the Colombian Categoría Primera A, the USA’s Major League Soccer, the Austrian Football Bundesliga and Ligue 2.

Band 5 means the Serbian SuperLiga, the Danish Superliga, the Polish Ekstraklasa, the Slovenian PrvaLiga, the Chilean Primera División, the Uruguayan Primera División and the Chinese Super League.

Band 6 means all leagues not in Band 1, Band 2, Band 3, Band 4 or Band 5.

A player needs 15 points to be eligible now if they are not playing regularly for their national team.

A player over the age of 21 from a country ranked within Fifa’s top 50, who has played 70% of their international matches over the previous 24 months will automatically get a GBE.

If they do not then bands of leagues is the easiest way to get a GBE.

Taking an example of another player of McHale Sports Pipa who moved from Espanyol to Huddersfield in summer. Last year Espanyol were in La Liga, the highest league in Spain and for this alone as he appeared in a match day squad he gets 12 points. He played in over 40% of games so he gets another 7 points, he is in with 19 points.

However Espanyol were relegated last season so if Pipa had not moved in the summer and looked to move this summer if he had still been at Espanyol the band of La Liga 2 is band 4 meaning only 6 points to the tally. He would only get 1 point for the minutes played in a band 4 league meaning he would only have got 7 points total and he would not qualify to play in England.

The rules are relaxed slightly for under 21 players who are not 21 at the date of the application and if they have played in first team game in a band 1 league they get 6 points, 5 in an band 2 league, 4 in  band 3 league and so on down to 1 point for band 6 league. This makes players under 21 more attractive as it is easier to get them in.

There are additional points to be had for playing in European competitions such as the champions league and Europa league and the equivalent in South America, Copa Libertadores for example.


The new rules go some way to meet the original objectives of the FA and the Premier League of letting fewer non uk players in to allow room for neglected English talent to develop. The Premier League will still be able to bring in big names as they will likely be playing for either their national teams or in band 1 leagues.

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