No deal Brexit and the Premier League

Categories: Salford Business School

With Brexit negotiations on-going there remains a high possibility of a no-deal Brexit. This could have huge implications for the Premier League, in terms of its ability to remain the most financially powerful league in the world.

Simon Chadwick, Professor of Sports Enterprise at the University of Salford Business School looks at what might happen.

Professor Chadwick said: “The Premier League’s has a strongly defined brand proposition: a cosmopolitan league in which the world’s best players can be found. This ensures that it engages fans in territories across the world, and that both the league and clubs within it are among the most valuable entities of their type anywhere globally.

“However, with Brexit looming the Premier League’s pre-eminent global position is facing its biggest ever challenge. As with other industrial sectors, a no-deal Brexit is likely to be damaging and may take years for the Premier League to recover from.

“Although the league’s managers have a strong track record of negotiating special dispensation from the British government’s normal regulatory controls, it nevertheless remains to be seen where the league will stand in the event of a no deal. In particular, it is unclear what will happen to the numerous players and coaches who head to Britain every year. For those who support the promotion of British talent ahead of that from overseas, a curtailing of free movement may seem hugely attractive. However, for the cosmopolitan Premier League brand, matters are much less satisfactory.

“Indeed, we have heard in recent weeks that Jose Mourinho is seeking a return to Premier League club management, following previous spells at Chelsea and Manchester United. The Portuguese coach is woven into the fabric of Premier League history, although there are no guarantees that he will even get into the country after 31st October. As things stand, it is unclear what the post-Brexit visa requirements will be for people such as Mourinho.

“The problem for him is that he has a criminal record, following his prosecution for tax fraud in Spain (for which he was given a one-year suspended prison sentence). In the event of a no-deal Brexit, unless the government moves quickly to clarify its position on the EU and visas, then Mourinho could, in theory at least, be denied entry to Britain. Under Britain’s current non-EU visa regulations, anyone seeking to enter the UK will normally be refused if they have previously been convicted of a criminal offence punishable by at least twelve-months imprisonment.

“Mourinho won’t be alone, however, in possibly facing this predicament; Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are both in a similar situation, having also been prosecuted for tax evasion in Spain and sentenced to terms in prison (albeit suspended). Champions League match days staged in Britain after 31st October 2019 could therefore be interesting affairs, especially if the competition’s biggest stars are denied entry to the country and cannot play in matches.

“Brexit is challenging the very fundamentals of what has made top-level players and coaches so valuable. One does sense that the league and the British government will agree a compromise on, for example, visas moving forward. Nevertheless, the extremities of a no-deal Brexit could induce equally extreme responses in football. In which case Brand Premier League, once the epitome of cosmopolitan football, faces the prospect of being considerably diminished.”

For all press office enquiries please contact Jessica Millington via email at j.k.millington@salford.ac.uk or phone 0161 295 2238.