UK visa rule change hits non-EU players

January 18, 2013
By ESPN staff

A change to UK immigration law has blocked a loophole that enabled non-European players to evade the FA's requirements for them to play in England.

Taison
GettyImagesTaison could join an English club until 2015

FA rules say a non-European player must have played in 75% of their country's matches in the two years prior to moving to England, with that nation needing to have had an average world ranking of 70 or higher.

But players have been able to gain investor visas given to those willing to invest £1 million or more in the UK, enabling them to play in the country on that basis.

The UK Borders Agency change - brought in during December - has resulted in a number of planned transfer window deals being abandoned because the players in question would not meet the FA requirements for a work permit.

The switch came after the FA raised concerns about the investor visas route with the Sports & Recreation Alliance (SRA), the umbrella organisation for governing bodies.

The SRA wrote to the UK Borders Agency, which responded by changing the rules to prevent professional sportsmen, women and coaches from being able to use the investor visas method.

The issue was also discussed at a Premier League board meeting. Neither the Premier league nor the Football League opposed the FA's argument, but both have said the rules on foreign players need to be reviewed.

It is believed Taison, a former Chelsea target who has since joined Shakhtar Donetsk from Metalist Kharkiv, obtained an investor visa before the rules were altered.

His three-year paperwork would mean he could move to an English club until 2015 without having to meet the FA requirements.