By Tom Drissi
As discussed in How Brexit could affect City - Part 1, the ability of British clubs to recruit from Europe has not yet changed from a legal perspective.
However, even though Norwich are still able to recruit work permit-free from the continent, a slight stumbling block in the short term (with regards to this summer’s transfer market) is that players at European sides just got a whole lot more expensive.
The calibre of player a promotion-pushing, yo-yo side like Norwich typically recruits would likely have a release clause between 6 & 10 million Euros. But since the ‘Leave’ vote such release clauses now require between £500,000 to £1 million more than they did pre-referedum.
Although it is worth noting is that the short term effect of currency fluctuations on the transfer market actually works both ways in the transfer market.
Our weaker £ makes our players more affordable to European buyers, and their release clauses (listed in Sterling) now cost continental clubs fewer Euros than pre-Brexit.
Brexit could also actually make for an interesting summer with regards to the transfer market in that it increases the incentive for Alex Neil and the club to begin promoting from within and giving academy products a chance in the first team.
With European based players now more expensive, and the signing of home-grown players from other clubs often representing dreadful value (Jordan Ibe linked to Bournemouth for £15 million being a laughable example), then Alex Neil and the board could deem it worthwhile to blood some youngsters in the upcoming season.
The combination of Norwich’s relegation along with such a huge change in Britain and therefore the Canaries’ relationship with the rest of the world will likely make for an interesting summer and few seasons ahead.
In the long-term, the type of agreement that can be negotiated in time between the UK and the EU over footballer’s work permits will have a huge say over how Norwich recruit players at home and abroad in the future.
However, unfortunately for Norwich and all British clubs is that the present uncertainty may be long-lasting as striking special deals with the EU over footballers is understandably quite far down the list of renegotiation priorities for the Home Office.
Norwich City FC, much like the rest of Britain, finds itself in a rather uncertain environment and how we as a club fare in the future could be largely down to forward-looking post-Brexit decisions made by the City board in the coming weeks.
Over to you, Delia.
By Tom Drissi
June 23rd, the day the British electorate voted, for better or worse, to leave the European Union.
As stressed by political pundits on both sides of the debate, the decision was to have wide-reaching impacts on all aspects and sectors of British society, and it would appear Britain’s national game will be far from immune to any such changes.
While economic turmoil, diplomatic uncertainty and the worst performing Sterling in recent memory (Raheem and the GBP) are all of huge importance, I’m sure the real question on everyone’s mind, of course, is how Brexit could affect the mighty Canaries...
Before I begin I should really point out nothing has changed YET in legal terms (all that ‘triggering Article 50’ stuff that nobody quite understands). No sudden changes to work permit restrictions on EU players have come into force, nor will any of the first team squad signed under the EU’s freedom of movement laws be retrospectively forced to apply for visas or work permits.
However, just because we can all rest easy in our beds that the Home Office aren’t swinging by Colney to deport Wes Hoolahan or Martin Olsson any time soon, it is still the case Brexit could have a significant impact on Norwich’s future squads and recruitment strategy moving forward, as well as more immediate influences in the upcoming transfer window.
A useful thought exercise to see how significant changing post-Brexit work permit laws could be in the future is to see how significant a role EU footballers have played in Norwich squads of recent years.
First of all, it should be noted superstars from Europe or elsewhere have been and will still be able to move to major English clubs for big fees and not have to worry about Brexit or obtaining a work permit because they typically satisfy the ‘highest calibre’ of player clause in the Home Office’s regulation.
However, clubs and players further down the pyramid such as Norwich, that don’t exclusively recruit established internationals from top ranked nations, could struggle in the future to see their foreign transfer targets granted the legal documentation required to even lace their boots up in the UK.
For sides like us, the EU’s laws allowing the player pools of 27 other nations to be scoured for talent without the looming issue of work permits are of huge importance. But just how reliant is Norwich’s non-British recruitment on the European Union and its labour laws?
Unfortunately for the Canaries, it appears Norwich’s recruitment from abroad is almost exclusively dependent on the EU’s freedom of movement laws in place for workers and footballers alike.
Over the past 4 seasons Norwich’s first team squads (typically around 30 players per season) have been composed of a base of around 16 to 20 British players and 10 to 12 non-UK national players.
What is striking (and worrying post-Brexit) about the make-up of the foreign contingent in Norwich’s squads in recent years is that practically every single foreign player we have signed since 2012 has been acquired by the club through use of the EU’s freedom of movement laws.
In fact, of the nearly 100 players to have been registered as first team members by Norwich since 2012, only 1 didn’t carry either a British or European Union passport.
This shows when Norwich scouts leave the UK and search abroad, they operate almost exclusively within the EU. Therefore the Canaries might have to seriously re-optimise their scouting networks.
For the record, the crazily small figure of just 1 non-British or EU players since 2012 mentioned above consists of Kei Kamara (Sierra Leonean & American dual national). The number seemed a bit low to me initially. However, every counter-example I tried to think of only ended up being disproved. For example, Jonas Gutiérrez and Luciano Becchio didn’t count as non-EU players as both, as is common practice among South American footballers, carried Italian passports.
Secondly, it turned out that Nigeria international Joseph Yobo had been at Everton for so long that he had gained British citizenship by the time he joined us on loan. Simeon Jackson (Canadian and Jamaican dual national) also has a British passport, while the likes of Seb Bassong, Vadis Odjidja-Ofoe, Youssouf Mulumbu and Dieumerci Mbokani all carry French or Belgian passports. And finally, while Timm Klose and Alexander Tettey aren’t technically from EU nations, their home countries of Switzerland and Norway are signed up to the EU’s freedom of movement laws, meaning they were therefore brought to Carrow Road under the same rules as other European imports.
All in all, Norwich has recruited almost exclusively within the UK and European Union in recent seasons, and what City need to do with their European-based scouts amid the short-term uncertainty and long-term likely reduced access is a really important question.
However, one potential positive of this could be if Norwich scouts in the face of uncertainty turn their attention inwards and begin to scout more extensively within the UK.
Not only would a future with more local, home-grown players be welcomed on the terraces, but were Norwich able to nurture some talented young Englishman into the first team then the transfer fees received from any eventual sale (including the infamous ‘English player premium’) could prove to be a very profitable business model for Delia and Co. whatever league we’re in.