Mark Bullingham: The FA is ready to ease GBE restrictions – allowing Premier League clubs to sign players early

Chief executive Mark Bullingham says the Football Association is ready to ease Governing Bodies Endorsement (GBE) restrictions to allow more Premier League clubs to recruit players early.

But the FA is also concerned that the influx of new players could limit the path to the first team for English footballers.

Post-Brexit, the introduction of the GBE in January 2021 has significantly impacted people who can be recruited from outside the UK. Clubs can no longer take talent from Europe under the age of 18 and the points tally now decides whether a deal can go ahead.

Should the necessary 15 GBE points be achieved, the price of the respective player will inevitably go up.

The GBE points level has been set by the FA to aid the development of English players, which is why Bullingham believes the influx of players from overseas should be limited but not excluded.

Speaking at the annual meeting of the International Football Association Board (IFAB) in London on Saturday, he said: “Our position is that the current system has challenges. It’s not perfect, we want to keep improving that and I think there are a number of different challenges to resolving that.”

“The thing that a lot of Premier League clubs will withdraw from is ‘Do they have access to world-class talent early on? “Can they reach out to a slightly wider range of players?” Part of their perception is that some transfer fees are caused by them going after a small number of players. I think the truth is that there are only a handful of players who would really add value to Premier League teams, And if you have a bidding war on a player, it will always drive up the price.

“And if you look at two examples, both (Enzo) Fernandez / (Mikhailo) Modric – in fact, they were lined up by Premier League clubs last year and they were going to have their work permit approved, and then this year they were bought for maybe 20 times more than they were. It can be bought last year.


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“I think it’s not the visa system’s fault that there are expensive transfer fees, but I think if you can end up with a system where you have a little bit wider access that reduces some of the competition.

“However, it’s really important that the influx of players is limited. We’ve had twice as many foreign players coming in the last two transfer windows than in any previous window. So there’s an influx and, in turn, you’ve seen the number of players eligible for England under-21s having been Their playing time has dropped dramatically by about half since Brexit.

“There are worrying trends for us – we are 28 per cent behind the players eligible for England. There are two problems to solve: the first is ‘Is there a way to give wider access but in a limited way?’ Then the second question is ‘How do we get more England players eligible to play? the time?”

“It’s really clear that with the Elite Player Performance Plan, and us and the clubs, I think we’ve done a great job of creating a really strong pipeline of talent. But then when they don’t get the chance to play, their career doesn’t develop and that’s a problem for us and for the clubs as well. They are not actively developing their assets.”

This week, Premier League chief executive Richard Masters said he believes the visa regime introduced by the FA after Brexit contributed to the £815m payment by Premier League clubs during the January transfer window.

Chelsea’s spending of more than £300m on players in January increased their spending to more than £600m under Todd Boehly-Clearlake Capital.

Bullingham believes that to reduce the amount of money spent on transfers, having a system allowing clubs to sign players for lower amounts on a lower points system could be a solution.

“For example, you could have a system that allows clubs to sign a small number of players with a minimum points system,” he added.

“This then allows them to sign an obvious world-class talent, you can sign him before he can get the required number of points. You sign him when he’s £3m rather than waiting until he’s £30m.”


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The impact of Brexit on one-year transfers on: work permit difficulties, non-EU quotas and online work permit calculators

(Photo: Getty Images)


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