Ahead of June’s Brexit vote, Max Ryan crunches the numbers and assesses the implications of a ‘Leave’ vote on the Barclays Premier League.
Cantona, Henry, Ronaldo, Bergkamp; the English Premier League owes much of its global success to the talents and achievements of European players. But what would happen if their influence was chalked off?
Analysis conducted back in September by The Guardian suggests that about two thirds of the league’s European contingent would not automatically meet the requisite work permit criteria if all players, EEA (European Economic Area) or otherwise, were treated the same.
What are the criteria?
In the eyes of the law, footballers are workers. And for a non-EEA national to work in England, they need to apply for a work permit.
But non-EEA footballers must prove themselves to be an international player of the highest calibre if they want to don the colours of a Premier League club. This means they are required to have featured in 75% of their country’s international matches for which they were available during the two years preceding their application date.
FA Chairman Greg Dyke says that these work permit laws are in place to ensure the betterment of the beuatiful game in England, by only welcoming non-EEA “whose employment will make a significant contribution to the development of their sport at the highest level.”
Even if a player’s work permit application is rejected, there is always the appeals process. So even if Britain does exit the EU, the Premier League d-day forecast by the Guardian would probably never arrive.
Although Anthony Martial, Dimitri Payet and N’Golo Kante did not play 75% of France’s international matches prior to their arrival in England, their respective club’s would have no problem convincing a panel that they have made a significant contribution to the development of their sport at the highest level.
So fear not, fans of the English game, your favourite league is safe. But what if, hypothetically speaking, these EU players were affected and were told to find another country in which to ply their trade?
Who would be affected?
In a post-apocalyptic world where Britain has exited the EU, Manchester United must make do without David De Gea, Juan Mata and Anthony Martial, West Ham fans must watch their side play without their talisman Dimitri Payet and champions Leicester must soldier on without N’Golo Kante and Robert Huth.
Swansea City and Watford are the most affected, with 11 of the players to have kicked a ball for them this season falling short of the new regulations, followed by Newcastle, Sunderland and Stoke with 10. Crystal Palace are the least affected with just one, Brede Hangeland.
Below is a breakdown of the number of affected players per Premier League team, including every player who has featured for each club during the 2015/16 campaign, even those who left the league in January.
Source: Barclays Premier League Official Website
Because football is unpredictable and cannot be neatly filed into a statistical package, the influence of these affected players is immeasurable. The only way one can come close to measuring their contribution is by chalking off their goals, and adjusting the results accordingly.
Would Newcastle have escaped the relegation zone without the six goals of Ayoze Perez? Would Manchester United still have even been in the hunt for top four without the goalscoring prowess of Anthony Martial? Would Aston Villa still be fixed to the foot of the table if all of the goals scored against them by affected players were struck off? All of your questions are answered with this Brexit Premier League table.
At first glance, Manchester United are hit the hardest without the goals of Martial, Mata, Schneiderlin and Herrera. Spurs clinch second because their 2-1 defeat to Newcastle has been changed to a 1-1 draw and even Aston Villa are not as far adrift as they are in the real world.
When compared with the actual Premier League table though, not much has changed.
Even if Britain does exit the EU the UK government would have to impose stricter labour laws in order for a scenario even close to this one to play out.
So maybe not something for English football fans to consider when they take to the voting booths, but rather something to think about next time they curse the number of foreigners playing in the ‘best league in the world.’