Could Brexit actually be good for football?

Date published: Monday 21st January 2019 9:29

You may have noticed that there’s something of a stramash about Brexit. I bet you’re as tired of the whole thing as I am, but as there doesn’t seem any obvious way out of the whole depressing shambles, I’m looking for a silver lining to give us some hope and wonder if football might be able to provide it for us. Could Brexit be good for football?

Whichever side of the Brexit fence you’re on, I think we can all agree that those charged with sorting it out are just not up to the job and that’s essentially why it’s all fallen apart. The people involved are no good, in over their heads and perhaps deluding themselves into believing stupid is the new clever. This was always obviously going to be a very complex thing to achieve and was never a room we could just walk out of and close the door, even though it was sold on that basis.

Given that the current army of inadequates are the only soldiers fighting the war and there is no more clever cavalry waiting in the wings, it is easy to think all hope is lost. And it probably is. This is going to be a huge stick in the spokes of Britain’s bike and when those whose job it is to take out the stick and mend the bike are as much use as a carrier bag full of jelly during open heart surgery, we are truly up the creek of effluent without a paddle.

But how is it going to affect football? After all, that’s the really important thing.

Obviously, getting to a game might be tricky because the roads are choked with lorries full of rotting seafood, unpicked fruit and vegetables and furious people with ever-hardening arteries unable to get their statins because we’ve run out of drugs. And just when you get near the stadium, there’ll be all the old people in Union Jack waistcoats and bloomers dancing in the streets like it’s 1945.

And when you get to the club, what will you find? Brexit for many was about ‘getting rid’ of foreigners. I know this because one man told me he was voting Leave because, and I quote, “I’m sick of f**king – insert racial slur on people from south-east Asia here – they can all f**k off.” When I pointed out the geographical flaw in his argument, his rejoinder was: “They’re all the same, foreigners, they can all f**k off.” Yes, really. No it wasn’t Neil Warnock.

In one way or another I’ve heard this time and again. The old racists’ slogan ‘Britain for the British’ still has a lot of traction, it really does. Brexit is feeding and emboldening it. Those people think this is their time.

And through it all the weird Governess May stares out of our TV screens, like a haunted wardrobe that is cluttered with the moth-eaten clothes of a long dead Victorian aunt, emitting the overpowering smell of naphthalene and embalming fluid, speaking the same 100 words over and over again as though the entire thing is a biblical parable to illustrate the perils of dancing with the devil.

Anyway, given this fresh hell, we may see a diminishing of overseas talent. England hardly feels like an open, welcoming place, does it? Rather, it emits a threatening vibe that leans forward and quietly says in a deep gruff voice, “you’re not from ‘round here, are you?”.

It means overseas players will cost English clubs much more than they do now. This was one of Mauricio Pochettino’s proffered reasons for not buying in the summer.

But let’s try and find our silver lining; it may not be all bad.

At the moment, any European player can come here to play without restriction. But if you’re from outside of Europe you have to meet certain criteria. They must be an international and cost £10million or more. There’s also a wage minimum, among other clauses to meet. So it is much easier and less hassle to buy a European player than someone from further afield. It could be argued that this has inflated the price of European players and a globally even playing field could drive down transfer fees. Woo hoo!

But after March 29, what rules will apply? No-one seems to know. Booo. This is probably because the government hasn’t made a decision. They’ve not made any decisions about anything else and appear paralysed to do so, so this isn’t unexpected. Do we keep the selective policy for world players and apply it to Europeans too or do we apply the current European situation globally? Frankly if they made a policy which said you could only play in England if you could prove direct lineage to Henry VIII then it wouldn’t surprise me given the nature of some of the people involved.

Some have speculated that by making Britain a really unattractive country where the massed ranks of grotesques have the whip hand and thus driving overseas players, managers and coaches away will aid the opportunities for homegrown talent to flourish.

Steve Parrish, chairman of Crystal Palace, for one, is positive about Brexit, feeling that it will provide more pathways to the first team for British players by ensuring homegrown players are genuinely homegrown and not European players who’ve been signed for academies as teenagers, who then stay three years and thus qualify as a homegrown player. He also looks forward to being able to buy any player from anywhere in the world without restrictions. At least, he’s hoping that’s the case. It’s by no means certain with this unruly and useless mob in charge.

As we won’t be in the EU, does that means we’re still part of Europe? Isn’t it the case that like Teesside, Europe is essentially an existential thing? Will we be European any more? I liked being European, me. Has anyone checked if British clubs will be allowed in European competitions? Will the FA still be in UEFA, the E stand for Europe, after all? This whole thing was about leaving Europe and the will of 37% of the population is apparently “to hell with the rest of the world”. I’d imagine an accommodation will be found to contradict this spirit, or at least, I’d hope so. But then hope is is short supply these days.

The bottom line is nobody knows how Brexit will affect football or anything else. It could seriously lay waste to the economy, or maybe most of us will barely even notice it’s happened. There are plenty of people saying they know how it’ll work out, but they’ve really just got their fingers crossed. They don’t. No-one knows. There could be a huge pile of mattresses to land on once we jump over the cliff, or a bed of nails.

However, usually in life, when you don’t know what you’re doing and are driven by dogma, things don’t usually end well. Like many people, I feel a strange mixture of weary bitterness and loathing, desperate to find some silver lining to this dark farce. And the only one I can come up with is that somehow Brexit will destroy the Premier League, will break it up and so impoverish it that it has to be rebuilt with a new fairer, moral, financial model at its core. I’ve tried to see how that might happen but it’s by no means obvious. If any of you have any ideas how it might happen, I’d love to hear them because now more than ever, we need something positive to shine light into this self-inflicted darkness. Now excuse me while I go and hoard some food and make myself a crossbow.

John Nicholson

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