Hundreds of footballers could be forced to leave the Premier League in the event of a vote to leave the European Union, a sports industry expert has warned.
Professor Simon Chadwick, from the University of Salford, recently wrote an article explaining how the upcoming referendum could change English football beyond recognition.
And during an exclusive interview with MM, Professor Chadwick explained that along with the likes of N’Golo Kanté and Mesut Özil, Manchester’s high-profile managers could be vulnerable under post-Brexit laws.
“If Britain left the EU and kept its work permit regulations, then a lot of big players wouldn’t qualify and would have to leave the country,” he said.
“When you’re selling Premier League football, you don’t sell it on the back of Danny Drinkwater – you sell it on the back of the likes of Sergio Aguero.
“The same would apply to managers.
“Take Manuel Pellegrini for example – would he have got a work permit to come here? Would Pep Guardiola? Would Louis van Gaal?
“Technically we could require, as a country, that all managers require a work permit test.”
Writing in The Conversation, Professor Chadwick explained that while it is hard to make precise predictions, Brexit could result in a mass exodus of players.
While some might spin this as a positive, with more opportunities given to British players, Professor Chadwick believes that English football’s top flight will forge a workable solution.
“It will be dependent on what permit regulations are put in place,” he told MM.
“What the Premier League can’t do with, what the Government can’t do with and what British football can’t do with is all these players being denied entry.
“I suspect that there would be a particular set of regulations put in place that ultimately would preserve the status of the Premier League.
“But it would take possibly five years to put those together – there is the question of what happens in the meantime. “
While Premier League clubs would probably lobby successfully for the inclusion of their European stars, lower down the pyramid, the waters become distinctly muddier.
In the referendum debate, football has not so much been swept under the carpet as totally entombed – something Professor Chadwick believes needs to be rectified before June 23.
“The Leave campaigners need to tell us how they see the future, because at the moment they’re not saying anything about football,” he said.
“I’m sure that football fans – whether they’re in support of the EU or not – they want to know what’s going to happen to their sport.
“It would be difficult to see how the British Government could justify applying special regulations to players in the first or second division.
“If you take Charlton Athletic, they’ve become better known for buying in players than developing their own players.
“How do you fill the gap if you can’t bring in players from the EU?
“They’ll have to re-establish their scouting networks, they’ll have to invest more in their reserve team set-ups.”
While supporters may find it difficult to muster too much sympathy for collapsed sponsorship deals and desperate chief executives, one area in which they could be directly affected is travel.
And while Manchester City and Manchester United have regularly taken thousands of fans abroad for European clashes, this could soon be a thing of the past.
“This football tourism, the culture of following your team is potentially going to be restricted by border regulations,” said Professor Chadwick.
“At the moment, you can take the 2pm flight on a Wednesday afternoon and be back in Manchester airport for Thursday morning.
“These have been the golden years, with freedom of movement and low cost airlines.
“I’m not saying that people will never go to games again overseas but Brexit would make it a lot trickier to go to games overseas.
“We’re headed for a period of great uncertainty if we leave.”
Image courtesy of Sky Sports, via YouTube, and Дмитрий Голубович, via Wikipedia