Throwing a spanner into football’s European Super League plans using immigration laws

20 April 2021

The furore around the announcement by a number of football clubs of their intention to create a European Super League has led to governments displaying their opposition to the idea and issuing threats on the legislative leverage that could be used to stop the breakaway league from getting going.  With so many of the UK’s leading football clubs’ players being foreign nationals who require work permits to play in the UK, one potential avenue through which the government and football’s governing bodies might seek to apply pressure on clubs could be through immigration law.

In a statement to Parliament, Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said “we are examining every option, from governance reform to competition law, and the mechanisms that allow football to take place.  Put simply, we will be reviewing everything the Government does to support these clubs to play.”

In order for a sportsperson to obtain a visa to come to the UK they commonly require endorsement from a governing body, which in the case of football in England is the Football Association.  The FA is against the proposed league and could simply seek to deny endorsement to players from clubs who are involved in the rival league, effectively preventing the players from obtaining work permission in the UK.  Since the end of the transition period on 31 December 2020 following the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, many EEA national, as well as non-EEA, players will also require permission and visas to play in the UK.  Shutting out certain clubs from obtaining endorsement for their players would be hugely disruptive and costly.  The new league could seek to create its own competing governing body to endorse players; however, as it stands, UKVI currently only recognises one governing body per sport, so it would be necessary to persuade UKVI to allow multiple governing bodies.

The measures that could be taken to counter the initiative for a new league underscore how reliant sport and football is on the law to help it operate - it is apparent that the new league will require support from government and footballing governing bodies to be able to survive.

If you have any queries in relation to these issues or any other sports immigration matter, please contact a member of our immigration team


Robert Houchill has extensive experience of assisting individuals and organisations with their UK immigration and nationality matters. Robert’s experience covers all kinds of immigration and nationality applications but with a particular emphasis on corporate immigration matters, and helping high net worth individuals.

Abigail Watt joined Kingsley Napley in December 2019 as a Paralegal in the corporate immigration team. She assists with various types of applications including Skilled Worker and ILR applications, naturalisation and EEA applications. In March 2021, Abigail was promoted to Senior Paralegal.


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