Work Permit Requirements for Football Players in the UK: A Post-Brexit Guide

The landscape of British football underwent a significant transformation following the UK’s departure from the European Union, particularly in how football clubs in the UK can sign foreign players. The introduction of a points-based system by the Football Association (FA), in collaboration with the Premier League and the English Football League, has established a new framework for the entry of non-UK players into the country’s football leagues. This article provides a comprehensive overview of the key aspects of these changes, aimed at guiding clubs and players through the updated work permit requirements.

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Governing Body Endorsement (GBE)

At the heart of the new system is the requirement for players to obtain a Governing Body Endorsement from the FA. This endorsement acts as the cornerstone for non-UK players seeking to secure a work permit, with eligibility determined through a points-based system that assesses:

  • International Appearances: Players earn points for both senior and youth international appearances, particularly for participating in competitive matches and for teams with higher FIFA rankings.
  • Club Appearances: Points are awarded based on the player’s involvement in domestic league matches and continental competitions, with an emphasis on participation in top-tier leagues and tournaments.
  • Transfer Fee and Salary: The player’s transfer fee and salary are also considered, serving as indicators of their quality relative to the league’s existing talent pool.

Points-Based Criteria

The criteria are designed to quantify a player’s contribution and significance in the footballing world, ensuring that only those of the highest caliber are permitted to join UK football leagues. Key components include:

  • Automatic Qualification: Players who accumulate a certain number of points, reflecting their international experience and club level performance, automatically qualify for a GBE.
  • Exceptions Panel: An Exceptions Panel exists for players who do not meet the standard criteria, offering a pathway for those with exceptional talent or potential to obtain a GBE based on a comprehensive review of their credentials.

Impact of Brexit on EU and EEA Players

One of the most notable changes post-Brexit is the equal treatment of EU/EEA and non-EU players regarding work permit requirements. This adjustment signifies a major shift from the previous regime, under which EU/EEA players could move freely to the UK without the need for a work permit.

Special Considerations for Youth Players

The system also addresses the recruitment of young talent, aligning with FIFA’s regulations on the international transfer of minors. This ensures that clubs remain compliant while nurturing the next generation of football stars.


The updated work permit requirements aim to refine the quality of foreign talent entering UK football leagues, enhancing the competitive nature of the sport within the country. Football clubs looking to expand their rosters with international players must carefully navigate these regulations to ensure successful player acquisitions. This guide serves as a starting point for understanding the intricacies of the new system, promoting an informed approach to player recruitment post-Brexit.

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