The new visa system put in place after Brexit is a contributory factor to Premier League clubs spending record sums on transfer fees as they find it more difficult to sign players at a younger age, the league’s chief executive Richard Masters said on Thursday.
A UEFA report published last month showed the January transfer window was dominated by English clubs who spent a total of 830 million euros ($878 million) which accounted for 53% of global transfer spending.
English clubs cannot sign Europe-based players under the age of 18, however, and Masters said at the Financial Times Business of Football Summit in London that the immigration system “needs a bit of a tweak”.
“Whilst we’re totally committed to developing young, homegrown players and we want (England manager) Gareth Southgate to be successful… when you have a limited supply of players you can go for and you’ve got lots of demand, then it’s slightly inflationary,” Masters said.
“That’s certainly not the only reason why lots of money and records are being broken in the Premier League transfer window, but it’s a contributing factor.”
The UK Home Office has a points-based Government Body Endorsement (GBE) system based on which clubs must apply to England’s Football Association to sign players.
“Ultimately we have generated an earned advantage over our European investors and a lot of that earned advantage goes to those European investors in transfer fees for players that we can no longer buy at a younger age,” Masters added.
“Some of this has nothing to do with the GBE system. It’s just that if you’re outside Europe, we can’t buy younger players in the same way that you could before, but it’s partially to do with the GBE system.”
Chelsea were the biggest spenders having laid out more than 500 million pounds ($596 million) in two windows since an investment group led by American Todd Boehly and Clearlake Capital took over the club in May last year.
Their massive outlay of nearly 300 million pounds on eight players in January — which included the 106.8 million-pound signing of Enzo Fernandez — was more than the combined totals of all clubs in the Bundesliga, LaLiga, Serie A and Ligue 1.
Their spending raised questions on how they would comply with Financial Fair Play regulations but Masters said they needed to be judged over a period of time.
“I’m not here to defend the new owners who have owned the club for less than a year and had two transfer windows,” Masters said.
“They might have bought, but they would probably argue they have a different transfer policy to the previous regime with younger players, longer contracts and lower wages.
“Within our rules it’s a test over a 12-month period, so the question is whether they are going to sell some of their existing players in the next window.”