On 1 December 2020, the Home Office approved the plan on entry requirements for overseas players in England post-Brexit in 2021.

European players can no longer be signed freely as freedom of movement has now ended. This means that all non-UK players, including EU nationals, will need to obtain both a Governing Body Endorsement (GBE) and visa.

What is a GBE?

A GBE is an endorsement issued by The Football Association (the FA) to a non-UK elite player who is established at the highest level, whose employment will make a significant contribution to the development of football at the highest level in England. Once the player has obtained a GBE, they can then apply for either a Tier 2 or Tier 5 visa.

What is the Auto-Pass?

An auto-pass GBE will be awarded to a player whose international appearances meet the requisite percentage.

What are the GBE requirements for Men’s Players when the Auto-Pass does not apply?

The FA uses a Points-Based System whereby a player must obtain 15 points to obtain a GBE. Players will be awarded points for:

  • senior and youth appearances;
  • quality of the selling club (based on the league they are in, league position and progression in continental competition); and
  • the number of continental and domestic minutes played.

A male player over the age of 21 transferring from a country ranked in FIFA’s top 50 national teams, who has played 70% of their country’s matches over the previous 24 months will automatically obtain a GBE.

In addition, a male player that is transferred from the Bundesliga, La Liga, Serie A or Ligue 1 (Band 1 leagues) to the UK will receive 12 points on the basis that they have been playing at elite club level. If that same player also plays for a club that reached the Europa League Group stages (or equivalent competition) or better then the player will meet the 15 points requirement.

For a full breakdown of how footballers can achieve the 15 point total, please see the FA’s Player Criteria.

What if a player falls short of the criteria to automatically be granted a GBE?

Players may still be able to obtain a GBE where they fall short of the criteria; the player’s application would be referred to an Exceptions Panel if requested. The application would then be assessed in accordance with discretionary criteria.

What are the differences between a Tier 2 and Tier 5 visa?

Under the Tier 2 Sportsperson visa route, an individual can apply if they are an elite sportsperson who is recognised by the FA as being at the highest level of their profession internationally. In addition to other eligibility requirements, individuals must be able to demonstrate that their employment will develop football in the UK at the highest level. Successful applicants can come to the UK on a Tier 2 Sportsperson visa for up to 3 years or the time given in the certificate of sponsorship (whichever is shorter); the visa can be extended for another 3 years to a maximum stay in the UK of 6 years.

Under the Tier 5 Temporary Worker – Creative or Sporting visa, individuals must have been offered work in the UK as a sportsperson, in addition to meeting the other eligibility requirements. This visa allows individuals to come to the UK for a maximum of 12 months or the time given in the certificate of sponsorship (whichever is shorter).

Can 16-18 year olds transfer within the UK?

Yes, FIFA announced a Brexit exemption to its policy on international transfers which will enable transfers between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Women’s Football and GBE

Similar rules apply to women’s football. Female professional players are required to achieve 24 points in their equivalent system in order to obtain a GBE or alternatively they need to obtain a GBE auto pass.

Auto GBE passes are also available in women’s football. GBE will be awarded to a player whose international appearances meet the requisite percentage.

Similarly, players moving from band 1 women’s clubs will also receive 10 points to contribute towards their points total. Teams in the following women’s leagues are in band 1: English Women’s Super League, Australian W-League, French Feminine Division 1, Italian Femminile Serie A, German Frauen Bundesliga, National Women’s Soccer League, Spanish Women’s Primera Division, and the Swedish Damallsvenskan.

For a full breakdown of how female footballers can achieve the 24 point total, please see the FA’s Player Criteria.

If you would like advice and assistance in relation to player transfers, contact our specialist Sports Department.