By Dan Simpson
I love football. So when I tuned into the news the other day and found out that Project Fear had turned their gaze on to the beautiful game, I was rather disgusted. Britain Stronger in Europe were boldly claiming that a vote to leave would result in over 100 of our beloved Premier League players losing the right to play in the UK. Let’s get the facts straight.
We could give them work permits. Well that was a rather easy solution wasn’t it? Yes, I hear you say, the current system works based on how many games they have played for their national team. But there’s no reason why we’d have to keep that policy. After all we would be a free, independent, sovereign nation – free to make our own immigration policy. And there is absolutely no reason that the government wouldn’t want to give them that permit. European footballers bring so much to our game and our country. Not only do they bring millions of pounds in tax revenues for HMRC; they also bring so much diversity and talent that our home footballers benefit hugely from.
But even if EU countries post-Brexit are given the same rule as current non-EU countries; this couldn’t be better news for British football – especially for upcoming talent. The current rules give the most talented players an automatic visa to play in the UK, whilst restricting the ‘mediocre overseas players’ – as Sol Campbell so eloquently described it in the Mail on Sunday. At the moment, young British stars coming through academies in British clubs are being crowded out by many other youngsters from all across the EU without given a fair chance at their home club. The Premier League is one of the most prestigious names in global football. And I think it is obvious that an exit from the European Union could enable young British talent to prosper; meanwhile the biggest names and talents from all over the world are still able to show off their talents.
It goes further than this though. Another claim made by Karren Brady recently in the Guardian is that Britain’s membership of the EU means that British footie fans benefit from ’not having to pay for visas’ when they want to see away matches in Europe. But as British citizens we already have visa-free access to 175 countries across the world, 84% of which are not members of the European Union! So the claim that EU countries would start implementing visas to British nationals is absurd. And this isn’t even taking in consideration of all the benefits that the fans bring along. They boost the economies of the host countries with all the taxis they hire; hotels they stay in; pints they drink and pies they eat at the game.
It does worry me to think that Project Fear has hijacked this debate. After a quick Google search, the number of articles articulating Mrs Brady’s point of view overwhelmingly outweighs the few, like Sol Campbell, that are defending British football.
For many in Britain, football is a large part of their life. British football has been struggling recently, with many England fans being incredibly disappointed in performances in the World Cup and European Championships. We need that spark, and I think that Brexit will give us just what’s needed. So I sincerely hope that the designated leave campaign is able to articulate a vision of hope and prosperity for post-Brexit football in Britain.