How Brexit impacts transfers and youth policy as UK leaves EU single market

Cesc Fabregas and Jadon Sancho would have been forbidden to make the international transfers which made their careers under new post-Brexit transfer rules.

The UK left the European Union single market at 11pm on Thursday, just before the January transfer window opens on January 2.

Brexit will see an end for the freedom of movement of labour for EU citizens here – and the end to signing Under 18s.

Spaniard Fabregas joined Arsenal at the age of 16 after coming through the Barcelona academy and made over 200 appearances for the club.

Young British talent, like Jadon Sancho and Jude Bellingham of Borussia Dortmund, will now not be able to play in Europe until they are 18.

Jadon Sancho joined Dortmund from Manchester City

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A new points system aims to create a footballing level-playing field with EU citizens now having only the same right as non-EU footballers to play in the British leagues.

All overseas signings will now need governing body endorsement (GBE) to be eligible to play in the UK. The Home Office-approved system has been agreed by the FA, the Premier League and the EFL and will be reviewed at the end of the January window.

Players will need to score 15 points to qualify for GBE.

The score takes into account factors such as international caps, the FIFA rankings of the player’s country, club appearances and the strength of the domestic league.

A panel will adjudicate on players 10-14 points.
The new rules won’t stop Premier League clubs signing top international players.

Cesc Fabregas joined Arsenal as a youngster from Barcelona


Clubs could previously sign EU citizens – such as Fabregas, Paul Pogba and Hector Bellerin – at the age of 16. Now the limit is 18.

Even European players aged 18 and 19 will have to meet additional criteria such as appearances in youth competitions at club and international level.

Manchester United’s U18 squad includes nine players born outside the UK and the head of
academy warned Premier League clubs could suffer under the rules.

Nick Cox told the BBC: “It probably puts us at a disadvantage to other European clubs.”


Sancho and Bellingham both decided to join Borussia Dortmund aged 17 but the new rules prevent any Under 18s making cross-border moves.

And individual EU countries have different rules for non-EU players.

Spain limits the number to three in any matchday squad. And it will be more difficult for managers and coaches to work abroad.

Man United initially signed Paul Pogba under the age of 18. This can no longer happen


The Premier League has agreed with FA to limit clubs to signing three foreign U21 players in any transfer window.


Premier League clubs will still need eight homegrown players in a 25-man squad which has led to more British players appearing in the top flight.


Premier League clubs can’t sign Under 18s but feeder clubs – or partner clubs – could do so on their behalf.

Manchester United had a close relationship with Royal Antwerp while Chelsea loan out players, such as Mason Mount, to Vitesse Arnhem.

The City Football Group – which is owned by Manchester City’s owners – have stakes in Girona, Lommel and Troyes.

Jude Bellingham joined Dortmund from Birmingham


British-born players used to check their ancestry to see if they could play for the Republic of Ireland. Now a parent born in Ireland or Northern Ireland would allow players to obtain an EU passport and the freedom to still play in the 27 countries.


Once Covid restrictions are over – and before a visa-waiver scheme is introduced in 2022 – UK nationals will be able to visit the EU for up to 90 days in in any 180-day period without a visa.

Trips to Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus and Romania will not count towards the 90-day allowance for other EU countries.


The transfer window in England for the Premier League and Sky Bet EFL will open on January 2 and close on February 1, 2021.

The Bundesliga and Ligue 1 windows will also open on January 2 while La Liga and Serie A will begin their trading on January 4.

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