Tiran Gunawardena

how do foreign footballers get UK work permits?

Tiran Gunawardena
how do foreign footballers get UK work permits?

How do foreign players get UK work permits?

If you recall our post detailing the transfer agreement for Reevaldo between Maracanã to Paddington United, the deal was conditional upon a number of key conditions.

Specifically, Clause 3.1(c) conditions the deal upon Reevaldo being granted a work permit to allow him to be lawfully employed as a professional football player in the United Kingdom.

In this post, we will discuss Reevaldo and Paddington's efforts to secure a work permit. Don't miss the footnotes --> 1 <-- which contain links to useful documents as well as additional insights on industry practice.

Governing-body endorsements

The Home Office is ultimately responsible for issuing UK work permits.2

However, in order to secure a work permit from the Home Office, a footballer's employer must first receive a “Governing Body Endorsement”, or GBE, for that player from The FA.

The FA's application for a GBE can be viewed here. Generally speaking, a club must demonstrate that a non-EU/EEA player is:

  • internationally established at the highest level, and
  • will make a significant contribution to the development of football at the highest level in the UK.

Automatic qualification

In order to automatically qualify for a GBE, the player must have participated in a certain percentage of senior international matches for his national team.14 Generally, that percentage is calculated over a two-year period. However, The FA, recognising that it is more difficult for younger players to break into their senior national teams, reduce the calculation period to one year for players under the age of twenty-one.

The required percentages of competitive senior international matches are determined by that country’s FIFA World Ranking over the relevant one or two-year period as follows:

  • FIFA Ranking 1-10: 30% and above
  • FIFA Ranking 11-20: 45% and above
  • FIFA Ranking 21-30: 60% and above
  • FIFA Ranking 31-50: 75% and above

The rankings are updated monthly, and in the two-year period preceding August 2016, Brazil is ranked at number five in the world. In the one-year period preceding August 2016, Brazil is ranked at number eight.

As both rankings are inside the top ten, Reevaldo would automatically qualify for a GBE if he had participated in at least 30% of Brazil’s senior international matches.

As Reevaldo is only eighteen, his participation was calculated over the past year. However, he has only played internationally at the youth level to date and naturally, his participation percentage will be zero by any calculation.

Therefore, Reevaldo’s fate will be in the hands of The FA's Exceptions Panel ("the Panel").3

Exceptions Panel

As Reevaldo did not automatically qualify for a GBE through international participation, Paddington requested that the Panel consider what The FA describes as "the player's experience and value" in order to determine whether a GBE should be granted.

The Panel is comprised of three members: a legally qualified chairperson and two independent panel members with "relevant experience at the top level of the game".4

The decision whether the Panel should recommend to The FA that a GBE be granted is by majority vote.5

The Panel initially takes a points-based approach to determining whether the player should be granted a GBE. If the player scores four or more points against the objective Part A criteria, the Panel will then immediately move on to conduct a subjective review of the information presented by the club and another other information it deems to be relevant.

Part A - Objective Criteria


Criteria Points
The transfer fee paid for the player is above the 75th percentile of qualifying transfers. 15 3
The transfer fee paid for the player is between the 50th and 75th percentile of qualifying transfers. 2
The player’s wages are above the 75th percentile of qualifying wages. 16 3
The player’s wages are between the 50th and 75th percentile of qualifying wages. 2
The player’s current club is in a top league and the player has played in at least 30% of available minutes. 1
The player’s current club has played in the group stages or onwards of a continental competition within the last 12 months and the player has played in at least 30% of the available minutes. 17 1

Reevaldo's score

Reevaldo scored six of the possible eight points in Part A, comfortably meeting the four-point threshold. As a result, there was no need to consider Part B.6

How did Reevaldo score six points?

The transfer fee paid for the player is between the 50th and 75th percentile of qualifying transfers - two points

  • Reevaldo’s transfer fee is an initial £8.4 million, rising to over £13 million with add-ons, many of which are likely to be met.
  • The basic £8.4 million fee falls between the 50th and 75th percentile and the total potential fee of over £13 million would be over the 75th percentile.
  • However, the Panel will only take into account the basic guaranteed transfer fee. As such, Reevaldo receives two points.

The player’s wages are between the 50th and 75th percentile of qualifying wages – two points

  • Reevaldo's basic wage of £40,000 per week falls between the 50th and 75th percentile.
  • As such, Reevaldo receives two points.7

The player’s current club is in a top league and the player has played in at least 30% of available minutes – one point

  • The FA defines “top league” as the six European leagues and two Central and South American leagues which provide the most players to the twenty highest-ranked FIFA teams over the preceding two-year period.8

The player’s current club has played in the group stages or onwards of a continental competition within the last 12 months and the player has played in at least 30% of the available minutes – one point

  • The FA defines “continental competition” as the Champions League, the Europa League, and the Copa Libertadores.9

Despite the fact that Reevaldo scored comfortably above the four-point threshold in Part A, the Panel is under no obligation to recommend to The FA that a GBE be granted. Rather, the Panel has absolute discretion on whether or not to issue a favourable recommendation and is not bound by the points thresholds.

Whilst not relevant to Reevaldo's case, for the sake of completeness, we set out the points-based criteria under Part B below. If a player scores at least five points under both the Part A and Part B criteria, the Panel may grant a GBE, but is under no obligation to do so. If a player scores fewer than five points, the Panel should refuse a GBE unless they are satisfied, through a subjective review, that the player is internationally established at the highest level and that he will make a significant contribution to the development of football at the highest level in the UK.

Part B - Objective Criteria


Criteria Points
The value of the transfer fee paid for the player is within 20% of the 50th percentile of qualifying transfers. 1
Players signed on a free transfer who have been ascribed a virtual transfer value (as the Panel deems appropriate in its absolute discretion) which exceeds the value which is 20% below the 50th percentile of qualifying transfers. 1
The player’s wages are within 20% of the 50th percentile of qualifying wages. 1
The player’s current club is in a secondary league and the player has played in at least 30% of available minutes.18 1
The player’s current club has played in the final qualification rounds of a continental competition within the last 12 month and the player has played in at least 30% of the available minutes. 1
The applicant club is able to show that the player has participated in the secondary percentage 19 of senior competitive international matches during the relevant period OR the player's national association was a semi-finalist in the Asian Cup or African Cup of Nations in the twelve months prior to submitting the application for a GBE. If the player's national association is ranked outside the top 60, then the the player must have participated in at least 75% of the competitive international matches played during the relevant period. 1


As Reevaldo scored at least four points on the objective points-based criteria in Part A, there was no need to consider the criteria in Part B. Therefore, the Panel then moved on to conduct a subjective review of any additional information presented by Paddington.10

Analytics

Not wanting to leave anything to chance, Paddington’s director of football, Fred Peason, submitted into evidence advanced statistics, analysis, and data visualisations to show just how good Reevaldo is.11

Reevaldo radar

Most football clubs use some degree of advanced statistics and analytics to support their traditional scouting and performance analysis.12

Analytics are increasingly being used by agents and lawyers as well as a tool to objectively show that the players they act for meet or exceed certain standards. Additionally, advanced statistics can also help better define the traditionally nebulous concepts of "value" or "worth" when it comes to contract negotiations and/or transfer fees.

For example, some use analytics in support of GBE applications, as we've seen here. Some forward-thinking football agencies and clubs also use analytics in their internal scouting departments to help better identify talented young footballers to target as potential clients.

Outcome

The Panel unanimously voted to recommend to The FA that Reevaldo be issued a GBE.

The FA, acting on the Panel's recommendation, granted Reevaldo a GBE, which allowed him to acquire a Certificate of Sponsorship, and then successfully apply for a visa with the Home Office.

The FA grants two types of GBEs - those under the Tier 2 (Sportsperson) visa and those under the Tier 5 (Temporary Worker - Creative and Sporting) visa.

The difference between the Tier 2 and Tier 5 visas is the length of their validity. Under the Tier 2 visa, the length of validity is three years or the length of the player's contract, whichever is shorter. Under the Tier 5 visa, the length of validity is one year or the length of the player's contract, whichever is shorter.

A Tier 2 visa will be usually be granted as long as the player is able to meet the English-language requirement set by the Home Office. Otherwise, a Tier 5 visa will be granted. Reevaldo was able to score high enough on the English-language test to meet the language requirement. As a result, he was issued a Tier 2 visa by the Home Office.

Had Paddington and Reevaldo not been successful at the Exceptions Panel, they would have had to wait four months before applying again.13

  1. Pretty cool, right?

  2. The Home Office is the UK governmental agency responsible for, among other things, issuing work permits. The internal department that handles this is called UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI).

  3. Paddington had to pay an initial £500 administration fee to start Reevaldo’s GBE process and will now have to pay an additional £5,000 to cover the costs of the Exceptions Panel.

  4. Anyone with a current association with the club applying for a GBE on behalf of a player must not be appointed to the Exceptions Panel. The club will be notified in advance as to who is sitting on the Exceptions Panel and may challenge the appointment of any Panel Member if circumstances exist which give rise to an actual or perceived conflict of interest.

  5. All panel members must vote, and approval from two of the three panel members will suffice.

  6. Part B is another points-based set of additional criteria and are lower thresholds than Part A.

  7. The FA will only consider the basic guaranteed element of the player’s total compensation package, i.e. variable pay and performance bonuses will not be taken into account.

  8. The top leagues are the Premier League, Serie A, the Bundesliga, La Liga, Ligue 1, Liga MX, and the Brasileiro Serie A. The Brasileiro Serie A – commonly known as the Brasileirão – is where Maracanã competes. Reevaldo was a regular starter last season, and easily meets the available minutes requirement.

  9. Maracanã reached the semi-finals of the Copa Libertadores last season, and as a regular starter, Reevaldo easily meets the available minutes requirement.

  10. In determining whether a GBE should be awarded, the Panel carries out both an objective and subjective review. The Panel typically reviews applications based on the papers presented to it, and only in exceptional cases will the Panel hear oral submissions. However, applicants can make written submissions to the Panel, and Paddington does so here. The Panel is also allowed, in its absolute discretion, to consider any other information it considers to be relevant, regardless of whether that information was submitted as part of the application.

  11. The radar below is an example of how key performance indicators can be displayed using great data visualisation. For more on radars, see this article, and to learn more about advanced statistics and football analytics generally, visit StatsBomb

  12. However, the extent to which this analysis is used in decision-making processess varies quite a bit from club to club.

  13. Had Paddington and Reevaldo not been successful at the Exceptions Panel, they would have had to wait four months before applying again.

  14. Competitive senior international matches include participatiion in the following tournaments: FIFA World Cup Finals; FIFA World Cup Qualifying Groups; FIFA Confederations Cup; and Continental Cup Qualifiers and Finals, including but not limited to: UEFA European Championships and Qualifiers; CAF African Cup of Nations and Qualifiers; AFC Asia Nations Cup and Qualifiers; CONCACAF Gold Cup; CONCACAF Copa Caribe; UNCAF Nations Cup; CONMEBOL Copa America; and OFC Nations Cup

  15. "Qualifying transfers" refers to every player Premier League clubs purchased in the previous season where that player was submitted to the clubs' respective Premier League squad lists. The qualifying transfers value is provided by The FA to the Premier League and Football League prior to each season and remains in force for the duration of that season.

  16. "Qualifying wages" refers to the basic wages paid to the top 30 earners in each Premier League club at the end of the season prior to the date of the GBE application. The value of qualifying wages is provided by The FA to the Premier League and Football League prior to each season and remains in force for the duration of that season.

  17. "Continental competition" is defined as the UEFA Champions League, the UEFA Europa League, and the Copa Libertadores de América.

  18. "Secondary leagues" are the Eredivisie (Netherlands), the Super Lig (Turkey), and the Primeira Division (Argentina).

  19. "Secondary percentage" is defined as the following: for national associations ranked 1-10: 25%+ for national associations ranked 11-15: 30%+ for national associations ranked 16-20: 40%+ for national associations ranked 21-25: 45%+ for national associations ranked 26-30: 55%+ for national associations ranked 31-50: 60%+ for national associations ranked 51-60: 75%+