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Brexit: UK votes to leave European Union — what does this mean for Chelsea?

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Sometime in the next few years, the UK will leave the EU. Chelsea will have to start planning for the new player acquisition and work permit realities.

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Regardless of how you vote, feel, or think, there's been an extraordinary political development in the United Kingdom.

On Thursday, the EU Referendum was won by the "Leave" side.  Votes are still being counted at the time of writing, but basically all media outlets have called it, and unless even more extraordinary political developments occur (i.e. the government ignoring the people's will), sometime in the next few years, the United Kingdom will quit the European Union.  They will be the first member ever to do so.

(As pointed out in the comments, Greenland also left, but they were technically not a member state but rather, at the time, a limited autonomous country in a member state, Denmark. And, this was in 1985, when the EU was still just the EEC, or European Economic Community.)

The politics of this situation are well beyond the scope of this blog (and the comments!), but some of its effects will be felt in the Premier League and on Chelsea.  I'd rather not have to talk about this at all, but in this instance, a political decision has poked a hole in our sport bubble, so we do have to touch on it.  The full effects won't be felt for a while — the referendum itself is not binding, it's up to the government to notify the EU, after which they have two years to negotiate how to leave — but they could be significant, especially in terms of new player acquisition.

FIFA Article 19 restricts the movement of players under the age of 18, but the EU has an exception that allows player movement at 16.  This is why Chelsea cannot sign players like Lucas Piazon from Brazil until they're 18, but could sign Nathan Ake at 16 from Feyenoord.  It should be noted that transfers like Ake's have not been without controversy, but leaving the EU will put Chelsea at a disadvantage compared to other top continental teams who are also in the business of hoovering up young talent from all across Europe.

On the other hand, maybe Chelsea will be more reliant, by definition, on homegrown talents — and many of the Academy's best and brightest, such as Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Lewis Baker, Tammy Abraham, etc., already are kids born in England and quite literally raised at Chelsea since an early age.

Leaving the EU, once it's all done and dusted, will also require all non-UK players (i.e. the vast majority of the current squad) to apply for work permits.  Existing contracts would not be affected but any new signings or renewals would be.  Recent changes to the work permit regulations should practically allow Chelsea to throw money at this problem, which is exactly how we managed to sign Kenedy.  We looked at that "loophole" thoroughly last summer, if you need a refresher.  When The Guardian looked at this possibility, they identified César Azpilicueta and Kurt Zouma as the two players who would not have been able to gain a work permit.  (Assuming the FA don't change regulations in response to the vote, or set limits on number of foreign players as has been discussed many times.)

This new permitting process could still leave a smaller proportion of foreign players playing at the top level, which could possibly be beneficial to the English national team, but could possibly be detrimental to the global appeal of the Premier League itself (which in turn could reduce the TV monies, which in turn will reduce the league's purchasing power, etc, etc etc).  Wheels within wheels — the British pound already took a massive hit on the financial markets this morning with the outcome of the vote, though as far as we know, most of Roman Abramovich's wealth is kept in euros.  (But those transfers will look even more outrageous now as the pound sterling drops to exchange rates not seen since the mid-80s.)

It's hard to quantify the exact impact of all this at the moment, but there's no doubt in my mind that there will be a palpable effect.  The Premier League has grown exponentially in recent years; this could very well put the brakes on that.  Or maybe it won't, and we will proceed with business as usual.  Time will tell and it could be a few years before we actually have to worry about any new rules and regulations.

But changes are coming, and just as with FFP, Chelsea will have to start planning for the new reality.