LONDON – English Premier League clubs owners urged the government on Thursday to explore measures to protect the competition from being damaged by Britain’s impending departure from the European Union.
With the British government insisting it must regain the right to control immigration and end free movement from the EU bloc, the ability of England’s top soccer clubs to sign players from Europe could be impeded.
After a meeting of executives from the Premier League’s 20 clubs, the owners of Stoke and West Ham called for immigration exemptions to preserve the flow of top footballers from the continent.
“We’d expect them to be included (in exemptions), but we have to wait and see,” Stoke owner Peter Coates said. “In Europe, we can get free movement and that will change, or may change, I don’t know. We don’t know.”
The English Football Association two years ago persuaded the government to adopt tougher visa requirements for players trying to sign from outside Europe. But Premier League clubs feel they could be put at a competitive disadvantage in Europe, where they can qualify for UEFA competitions, if they cannot easily trade in talent from the continent.
The uncertainty could exist as the terms for the dissolution of Britain’s 44-year relationship with the EU are formalized before the exit deadline on March 29, 2019.
“The Premier League is the greatest league the world has ever known,” West Ham co-chairman David Gold said. “It’s a fantastic advert for Britain, for England. I know people talk about the wealth that’s there, but…