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UK clubs' concern they may no longer be able to sign Irish players under the age of 18 after Brexit

Correspondence, seen by The42, between a leading club in Britain and a League of Ireland side details their fears over potentially ‘calamitous’ change to how they operate at youth level.

Political football: the United Kingdom is set to at last leave the European Union in the coming days.
Political football: the United Kingdom is set to at last leave the European Union in the coming days.
Image: Empics Entertainment

FOOTBALL CLUBS IN Britain are bracing themselves for the ‘calamitous’ effects of Brexit on their ability to sign Irish players under the age of 18.

The42 can exclusively reveal how one leading club across the water now fear they must fundamentally alter the way in which their youth system operates.

In correspondence seen by the The42, the club admit that the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union this Friday will “significantly impact in the most calamitous manner” how they are able to do their business.

The letter was made available to The42 and one high-ranking academy official in England confirmed within it that “the football industry will undoubtedly have to change its recruitment strategy with regards to young players”.

The British club describe themselves as “disenchanted with the situation” after they were compelled to pull out of a deal for one of the League of Ireland’s most talented teenagers, as he does not turn 16 until next year.

While Fifa have granted English clubs a ‘transition period’ until 31 December of this year to get their houses in order, the growing belief across the water is that no Irish teenager under the age of 18 will be able to leave.

As per Article 19 of Fifa’s statues relating to the transfer of minors, it states: “International transfers of players are only permitted if the player is over the age of 18.

“The following three exceptions to this rule apply:

a) The player’s parents move to the country in which the new club is located for reasons not linked to football;

b) The transfer takes place within the territory of the European Union (EU) or European Economic Area (EEA) and the player is aged between 16 and 18.


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In the letter seen by The 42, the English club state: “If the UK does not remain in the European Economic Area after leaving the EU then British clubs could lose this exemption as it is extremely unlikely that FIFA would create an exception in the Article 19 for UK clubs…

“The EU withdrawal bill rules out any form of extension to the transition period…”

As a result, the English official admits that Fifa regulations then “prevent the transfer of players under the age of 18”.

Consequently, the letter from the English club continues citing their belief that “in terms of transfer of Under-18 EU nationals to UK clubs, the January transfer window and possibly the summer transfer window could be the final time players between the age of 16 and 18 years will be able to be signed”.

Despite the fact that “uncertainty prevails” surrounding the exact consequences, a statement released to the The42 by the English FA last week on the matter stressed that they were working on a solution.

“We are continuing to work with the Premier League, EFL and a range of government departments, including: Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS); Home Office; and Treasury during this consultation period.”

Privately, there were concerns among clubs in Britain that their ability to sign Irish teens would be limited, as this letter clearly states.

Originally published at 16.30

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