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What Effect Would Brexit Have On Reading FC And The Football League?

We had a look at what the biggest political issue of the day might meant for the Royals.

EU Referendum - Signage And Symbols Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images

It's the biggest political question in Britain at the moment: should we, as a country, leave the European Union or remain a member? The electorate gets the chance to vote on that very issue today so, however you feel about the topic, please make sure to have your voice heard by heading to the polling station.

But what does this have to do with us? Surely a referendum with such broad implications will have some ramifications upon Reading FC?

The situation at the moment

As things currently stand, British membership of the European Union means free movement of labour across member states. So, obviously, that makes signing players from those nations a very easy process for Reading. However, bringing in players from non-EU countries is harder, as those players need to acquire a work permit.

So far, so simple. But how would Brexit change that? Despite the Leave campaign's assurances that Brexit would lead to lower levels of migration, it's hard to be sure of that. Very possibly, we could see some kind of economic deal struck between Britain and the European Union that could potentially include the free movement of people.

In that case, things wouldn't really change. Britain would leave the EU, but Reading's transfer strategy needn't change. Let's assume for a moment that such a deal doesn't happen though, and the free movement of labour from Europe to Britain ends. How exactly would that affect Reading?

The theoretical scenario

On the face of it, Reading would have to alter their approach to bringing in new recruits. As we've said on this site before, the Thais are likely to encourage the backroom staff to scour the European market. Rather than looking in the UK for new players, it's cheaper to find obscure talent from the continent. For examples of that, see Deniss Rakels (Latvia), Danzell Gravenberch (Netherlands) and Orlando Sá (Portugal), all of whom have been owners signings.

However, if Reading were no longer able to do that - at least not as easily or cheaply, it's safe to assume that there'd be more opportunities for homegrown players. After all, shortage of talent would have to be made up somewhere.

But is that really such a good thing? You'd have thought so, at least in the sense that Reading would have to use academy graduates to make up the squad. In the long term, we'd see a rebalancing of the squad, with the end result being more English, Welsh, Scottish and Irish players turning out for Reading.

However, there are other considerations to take into account. At least in the short term, a lower amount of players being available would drive up the cost of labour. In other words, it being harder for Reading to buy players would make external recruitment more expensive.

In recent years, we've already seen the price of British players skyrocket. Not only does that apply to the Premier League, but it has also affected the lower divisions, with talent like Andre Gray moving from Brentford to Burnley for a fee in the region of £9 million.

The days of snapping up an Adam Le Fondre for a few hundred thousands pounds look to be long gone. And, with the prospect of Brexit looming, I doubt that we'll see them again.

Ultimately, the only way of reversing that trend is to vastly increase the number of British academy graduates populating the squads of the 92 league sides. Would Brexit help that? Maybe, but really it's on the clubs to invest in their academies, and the FA to pump cash into grassroots football.

A brighter side of Brexit

As you've probably picked up from my above comments, to say the least, I’m sceptical about Brexit's potential effects on British football. However, there's a more subtle potential benefit that hasn't been mentioned.

It's frustrating to see English clubs expanding their academies but not predominantly populating them with English players. As an example, strictly speaking, Gylfi Sigurðsson counts as a 'homegrown' player as he came through at Reading. But is that really what we want for British academies?

In a theoretical Brexit-based scenario in which it's harder for British clubs to recruit abroad, you'd likely see the make-up of academies changing. The likes of Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City and others would have to develop native talent, rather than bringing in youngsters from Europe.

In conclusion

It's very hard to tell what would actually happen in the event of Brexit, so it's unavoidable that much of the above is theoretical. Nonetheless, I'd stress two things above all.

Firstly, please make sure to get out and vote. Whatever your view on the referendum, and however strongly you feel about it, this is too big a discussion to not be part of.

Secondly, don't base your vote on football. That'll sound like an odd thing for me to say (this being a football blog, etc), but there are more important, far more wide-reaching issues at play.

Five player who could have been impacted

Royston Drenthe - one international cap would not have been enough under the current work permit rules

Emerse Faé - played less than 75% of Côte d'Ivoire's games in the two years before he joined Reading which is needed for non-EU players to get a work permit. His French passport meant he could still move to Reading

Marcus Hahnemann - did not have enough international caps for a work permit but was still able to play in England due to his German passport

Jimmy Kébé - only able to play in England because of his French passport

Gylfi Sigurðsson - FIFA rules ban the transfer of U18 players except those who have the right of freedom of movement in the European Economic Area (like Iceland does despite not being part of the European Union)