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Understanding English Football’s Work Permit Rules

There have been a number of South African footballers linked with a move to England recently, with Bongani Zungu and Keagan Dolly both mentioned of late.

Read: Downs Trio In 'Danger'

Kamohelo Mokotjo was believed to have been on the verge of a move to English Championship club, Brentford, at the start of this season, however any chance of a move was shut down by the strict rules that were brought in at the start of the campaign.

While there will be no issues with regards to English clubs signing players from South Africa, they would not be able to register them for the foreseeable future due to the difficulties in getting a permit, and would therefore have to loan them out like Arsenal did with Joel Campbell.

The English FA imposed new work permit rules at the start of the 2015/16 season in an attempt to slow down the influx of foreign players in the English leagues with the idea that it will help young local players make their way through the ranks.

In order to be granted an automatic work permit to play in England (Premier League, Championship etc) the player has to have played a certain percentage of their national team’s matches over the course of the last 24 months, with that percentage being decided by FIFA ranking of the country.

AFC Bournemouth’s Tokelo Rantie, the most recent South African player to move to England, was lucky to get his move to the Cherries before the recent change in rules, hence the decision to grant his permit.

The FIFA Ranking that is taken on board is not the specific one at the time of the transfer, but an aggregated position over 24 months. For example, in the latest aggregated rankings South Africa were 63rd.

Some have questioned how Mohamed Elneny, who joined Arsenal from FC Basel this month, was granted a permit with Egypt sitting in 58th place, however on the aggregate rankings they are currently 47th.

FIFA Ranking – Percentage of matches
1-10 – 30%+
11-20 – 45%+
21-30 – 60%+
31-50 – 75%+

If the does not meet these requirements then there is still a chance that they can make a move to England, however their case has to be brought before the ‘Exceptions Panel’ who then use a points system to see whether the player is eligible for a permit.

Should the player score four or more points in the primary points system then the panel may recommend, but is not obliged to recommend, that a permit be granted.

If the player scores less than four then the secondary points system comes in to play and a total of five points over the two systems must be accumulated in order for him to be recommended for a permit.

Primary Points System
3 points - Transfer fee is above the 75% of qualifying transfers.
3 points – Wages being paid are above 75% of qualifying wages.
2 points - Transfer fee is between the 50-75% of qualifying transfers.
2 points - Wages being paid between the 50-75% of qualifying wages.
1 point - Current club is in a top league* and the player has played in 30% or more of the available domestic league minutes.
1 point - 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 30% or more of the available domestic league minutes.

Secondary Points System
1 point - Transfer fee being paid for the player is within 20% of the 75th and 50th percentile of qualifying transfers.
1 point - Wages being paid to the player by the applicant club are within 20% of the 75th and 50th percentile of qualifying wages.
1 point - Current league club is in a secondary league** and the player has played in at least 30% of the available domestic league minutes.
1 point - Current club has played in the final qualification rounds of a continental competition within the last 12 months and the player has played in at least 30% of the available domestic league minutes.
1 point – Player has played in secondary percentage of national team games OR the player’s national team was a semifinalist in the Asian Cup of African Cup of Nations in the 12 months prior to application.

With all of this in mind, while subjective criteria can also be taken into consideration, it is highly unlikely that any South African footballer, let alone one still playing in Mzansi, will be able to get a work permit in the UK any time soon.

 

*Top League –
· The six (6) European leagues which provide the most players to the top 20 squads in the FIFA Aggregated World Rankings at the relevant point in time; and

· The two (2) Central and South American leagues which provide the most players to the top twenty (20) squads in the FIFA Aggregated World Rankings at the relevant point in time.

**Secondary League –
· The 2 European leagues which are not top leagues but provide the next most players to the top twenty (20) squads in the FIFA Aggregated World Rankings at the relevant point in time; and

· The Central and South American league which is not a top league but which provides the third most players to the top twenty (20) squads in the FIFA Aggregated World Rankings at the relevant point in time.

For the full breakdown of the criteria you can read this document.

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