Penalising creativity or stabilising prices in Europe? Brexit a year on
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    Director of Football, Leeds United F.C.
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Penalising creativity or stabilising prices in Europe? Brexit a year on
by Jonathan Rest

Football executives share their views with TransferRoom on the impact of Brexit ahead of the Winter Transfer Window.

Brexit penalises creativity. Our scouting department has a plan to try to recruit with creativity and now with the new GBE rules it is difficult. The number of players is really, really reduced now.
Victor Orta
Director of Football, Leeds United

Fishing for talent in a smaller pool

 

As we approach the one year anniversary of new employment laws coming into force in England, what impact has it had on scouting and player recruitment?

 

Of course the answers are largely dependent on which territory you ask the question in, but it’s arguably harder than ever for clubs in England to make big wins in the transfer market.

 

Essentially the available player pool across Europe for English clubs has dropped from around 60,000 to 3,500 meaning clubs are now no longer able to use their European scouting networks in more untapped markets. 

 

Instead, recruitment departments in the smartest, best-managed clubs are having to meticulously plan ahead.

 

Leeds United’s Director of Football Victor Orta has been one of the most outspoken executives at an English club on the Brexit rules.

 

He told this year’s StatsBomb Conference in London: “Brexit penalises creativity. Our scouting department has a plan to try to recruit with creativity and now with the new GBE rules it is difficult. The number of players is really, really reduced now. 

 

“In terms of the top six in the Premier League, they are normally recruiting in the same market, but in my case, I have plenty of information about the second division in Spain or a 24 year old from Italy who now I cannot sign in England who could be relevant for us.”

 

Paying a premium

 

Leeds were able to make a signing from Norway’s Eliteserien (Band 5) in the summer, with young goalkeeper Kristoffer Klaesson coming in from Valerenga, but Orta gives the example of another Norwegian who would not have been able to make the move to England.

 

Jens Petter Hauge was on a number of English clubs’ radars following his performances for Bodo/Glimt, but made the move to AC Milan in late 2020. He is now on loan at Eintracht Frankfurt in Germany.

 

Orta said: “How is it right that a talent of 22 years old like Hauge goes to Milan but because he played in a league like Norway he can’t go straight to England? So he has to go to Serie A first and then you have to pay the penalty if you want to bring him to the Premier League. He’ll cost something like £10m more. It’s a difficult situation.”

 

James Cryne, a board member at Barnsley FC, told the same conference: “The rules are built for people that can sign top players from teams that are doing well. That’s people with big budgets. They’re not built for people that can look for gaps. We signed a player in the summer that got 28 points who never played above the third division in Germany. But we would not have been able to sign players that we’ve gone onto sell for £5m. It’s random.”

 

Advocates of Brexit in English football claim the regulations serve to protect English talent and ensure they get game time. It’s not an opinion shared by Orta.

 

He said: “I have five players playing for England at Under 20 level. We only get that if we put better challengers into the league… Analyse what happened in Russia: when they included a minimum number of Russians in each team, the level of the Russian national team decreased. Why? Because it decreases the overall level of the league. Put the best in the Premier League and then create the challenge of becoming best.”

 

Roberto Gagliardi was previously Chief European Scout at Portsmouth FC before becoming Head of Football Operations at the English League One.

 

He too feels restricted in the current regulatory climate, noting: “Brexit rules have significantly reduced the possibility of making speculative investments in undervalued talents. We have to look more in depth at the English leagues or be creative on foreign leagues where possible. 

 

“It has indirectly determined an increase in the cost of domestic players, which also penalises smaller clubs. It’s evident for me that you don’t develop local talents by forbidding foreign talents to access the country – rather the opposite. Creating competition increases the level.”

 

He continued: “It’s a frustration and people that operate with an open mind in recruitment are affected. There are certain leagues where the football is so similar in terms of physicality and technical levels that you're pretty sure that those players would be suitable for England, the 2. Bundesliga being a good example. But it’s Band 4. So it makes everything harder. We need to be creative as much as we can but of course it has reduced our ability to outthink the competition with less money.”

 

Europe's opportunity

 

Another important factor of Brexit is that if English clubs want to sign players from the EU, they now have to wait until they are 18, while they are also restricted to signing just six EU players each year between the ages of 18 and 21. 

 

Johannes Spors, the newly-installed General Manager of Italian Serie A club, believes this will be a big advantage for certain European leagues in the coming transfer windows. 

 

Speaking to TransferRoom earlier this year in his role as Sporting Director of Vitesse Arnhem, Spors said: “From an outbound point of view, a lot of young talents from the Netherlands or Belgium have left for England at quite a young age, so this will not be possible anymore. This has an impact because it is in the budget of some clubs to sell these players early, but on the other hand hopefully there will be more talents staying here to help develop our leagues.

 

“Also other markets, like Germany or France, will become stronger for Dutch clubs if these players cannot move to England.”

 

That is certainly the viewpoint of Kristian Walter, Head of Recruitment at 2. Bundesliga’s Dynamo Dresden.

 

He said: “Brexit has changed the market for sure. English clubs can’t just come and take players from 2. Bundesliga. The market was exploding, and you just could not compete financially with those clubs when it came to transfer fees, but more importantly wages.

 

“For example, Brentford bought a player [Andy Gogia] from Hallescher in 2015. He had great stats. He didn’t quite make it there, and the next season we took him on loan. We had an option to sign him permanently but the big problem was his wages. We couldn’t afford to make the deal.

 

“Brexit is a bit more stabilising for clubs like us.”

 

Saving time at the click of a button

 

While the benefits or not of Brexit can be debated long into the night, what decision-makers at clubs can all agree on is that they do not have time to waste on deals that will no longer be permitted.

 

That’s why they are increasingly turning to TransferRoom’s Governing Body Endorsement (GBE) Calculator, which provides instant insights into a player's eligibility to work in the UK. 

 

The database contains detailed records on over 90,000 players worldwide, and categorises them under the following outcomes:

 

  • Auto Pass - Based on international appearances
  • Pass - 15+ points
  • Exceptions Panel - 10-14 points
  • Fail - Less than 10 points
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