How has Brexit affected Irish soccer players transferring to UK clubs?

Another unintended consequence of Brexit has been restrictions on player transfers. For Irish players, this means they cannot now transfer freely from Irish clubs to English clubs.

Previously, English clubs could sign players from within the EU with no restrictions. Players now seeking to transfer require a Governing Body Endorsement (GBE). Players under 18, cannot move freely from Ireland to England even with a GBE.

What is a GBE?

Under the English Football Associations Men’s Player Criteria a GBE is defined as:

An endorsement issued by The FA to a club for an…elite player who is internationally established at the highest level, whose employment will make a significant contribution to the development of football at the highest level in England

It is not completely discretionary however as the FA apply certain eligibility criteria.  A points-based system is used, and the following factors are taken into account:

  • Senior and youth international appearances.
  • Quality of the selling club, based on the league they are in, league position and progression in continental competition.
  • Club appearances based on domestic league and continental competition minutes.

Players who earn the stipulated points will automatically receive a GBE and those who earn below can still be considered by an FA Exceptions Panel if the signing club can demonstrate that there were exceptional reasons why the player did not achieve the requisite points.

Why can English Clubs not sign young Irish Players?

Under FIFA Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players, international transfers of players are only permitted when the player is over the age of 18 unless:

  • the player is within the EU; and
  • the new club will provide education for that player.

Now that the UK has left the EU, English clubs cannot sign underage players from outside of the UK. This means that an underage Irish player is treated the same as an underage Argentinian player. The transfer of Irish players to English clubs at a young age was almost a rite of passage in a young Irish footballer’s career.

Brexit has made this more difficult.

Could this change?

There were hopes that the Common Travel Area between the UK and Ireland would mean that Irish players would be an exception to both the GBE requirement and over 18 requirements.

However, no arrangement has been made between the two Governments. In the absence of any such arrangement FIFA have decided that Irish players will be governed by the same rules as all other overseas players when it comes to transfers.

Ultán Anderson is a solicitor in our Litigation department, which deals with sporting matters and advice for sporting bodies. For more contact Ultán or any of the team on 01 6393000 or visit