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Dublin: 7°C Wednesday 19 May 2021

Fifa reportedly close Brexit transfer loophole in potential game-changer for Irish football

The days of Irish minors moving to UK clubs may be about to end.

Brexit: English football's difficult may be Ireland's opportunity.
Brexit: English football's difficult may be Ireland's opportunity.
Image: Evan Logan/INPHO

FIFA ARE REPORTEDLY set to forbid Irish footballers moving to UK clubs before they turn 18, signalling a major change for Irish football. 

Fifa’s rules do not allow the international transfers of players under the age of 18, though an exception is made if the player is moving from one EU nation to another, in which case the player can move from the age of 16 once criteria relating to education is met. 

The most talented Irish footballers have traditionally moved to clubs in the UK well before they turn 18, with recent Irish internationals Troy Parrott, Aaron Connolly, Jayson Molumby and Adam Idah all signing professional contracts with English clubs at the age of 16. 

With the Brexit transition period ending on 31 December, however, the EU exemption no longer applies to clubs in the UK. 

Many UK clubs believe Irish players under the age of 18 would continue to be allowed move to the UK from the age of 16 because of an exemption under the Common Travel Area between the Irish and UK governments, and so had been recruiting as normal in recent weeks. 

A senior English Football League source told The42 on Tuesday there would be no exemption for Irish youngsters under the Common Travel Area, however, and that has reportedly been confirmed by Fifa today. 

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Sports law firm Mills & Reeve today reported a Fifa Council meeting today approved the transfer of minors between England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, but not the Republic of Ireland. 

“Fifa announce ‘Brexit exemption’ to allow the transfer of minors aged 16-18 between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland but not between the UK and the Republic of Ireland. Without this exemption, ‘international’ transfer of minors is prohibited”, tweeted the sports law firm. 

The change would represent a major culture change for Irish football, and would shift emphasis to the elite player structures in this country, with these structures now necessary to develop players between the ages of 16 and 18 who would otherwise have been coached at well-heeled UK academies. 

Presently, Ireland’s elite player pathway consists of national underage leagues at U13, U15, U17 and U19 level; leagues consisting of League of Ireland clubs’ academies, some of which are affiliated with local schoolboy clubs. 

The FAI this week announced with regret the cancellation of the final three rounds of games in this year’s national underage leagues following a government directive, in spite of the fact the GAA were allowed proceed with their minor championships.

About the author:

Gavin Cooney

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