Brexit and the Premier League

Brexit and the Premier League

Britain has been gripped with post-EU Referendum fall-out. Markets have panicked, the pound has fallen, and the Prime Minister has resigned. All this seems secondary when you consider the real burning issue: How will Brexit affect the Premier League.

One certainty surrounding Brexit is everything is uncertain. There’s no clear front-runner for the Tory leadership, when the fragmented state of British politics is taken into account. While many mention Boris Johnson as a likely candidate, there are those that seem to think he has too many agents working against him. Theresa May is emerging as a front-runner and she was a member of the Remain campaign.

Depending on who takes the hot-seat will shape the nature of EU negotiations. A hard line Brexiter will be less likely to concede allowances, like continued freedom of movement for access to the common market (albeit with higher tariffs and penalties). But that option is still, at this moment in time, on the table. If that was to be the outcome, all the potential scenarios about to be mentioned, are null and void.

The alternative is a phased exit from the single market, in tandem with workers’ rights from EU countries. This is where the Premier League braces itself for a paradigm shift.

The most obvious change, and one that would be immediately recognisable, is how EU players would no longer be allowed to ply their trade in the Premier League without obtaining a work permit, like players, say, from South American countries currently apply for.

Players with a work permit are viewed as exceptional and are able to enhance the league based on their international experience. The better the ranking of the nation, the less games the player needs to have featured in for the national side. For example, countries ranked in the top ten, require the player to have featured in 30% of matches or more in the last two years. Moving in blocks of ten, the appearances required rise from 45% to 60% and finally 75% respectively.

If a player is refused, they can appeal. The Home Office then take into account the size of the transfer fee. An outstanding player may come from a country blessed with world class talent, so has rarely featured on the international stage, while still being of the highest calibre. This point is backed up with the size of his contract and the weekly wage.

Also, if the player has featured in many Champions League games, it sheds favourable light on his case.

However, the Premier League cannot gain special treatment compared to other industries, inevitably the number of European-based imports would decrease if EU players became no different from nationalities based outside of this continent. Maybe there’d be several years of easing in new rules but eventually the law would be the same across the board.

At this point the star foreign players would be more expensive to acquire. That strikes fear into club owners and fans will feel their team is being ripped off. But perhaps it will be better to avoid the current Average Player Tax the league endures, bringing in filler to gain access to the rare outstanding performer. Instead clubs will pay a premium for a premium player, minus the non-descript faces.

When the Premier League was new, it managed to pull in star names. Back then they felt special as they were, to start with, one-offs. Since then it has been easier to lure the best in the world over en masse. In doing so, the league’s reputation has risen to such a degree that nothing will prevent players feeling its lure.

It isn’t about to turn into the Scottish Premier League from yesteryear, with a few massive names in a field of averageness. The money alone that the Premier League generates means it can endure any rule change to the eligibility of its workers.

The FA will see it as a blessing in disguise. The lazy scouting of top clubs, that see them take a risk on an average foreign player with an EU passport rather than look in the domestic lower leagues, will slowly draw to a halt. And current champions Leicester have demonstrated, there is talent to be found further down the leagues.

Any extra premium clubs pay for the stand-out performers will also be offset by an unexpected easing of financial burdens. Currently too many top teams are reluctant to use their youth academies. Part of this problem comes from the condition that too much choice is a bad thing. When pruned to a more manageable number, the human mind finds it easier to make correct choices.

The pruning that will take place in the academies will be the process of no longer filling them with youngsters from around the globe that either have EU citizenship or want to attain it. Instead, British players will fill the ranks. Those that are clearly the best won’t have to fight with high numbers of imports or pointless loan moves across the continent. They will be used or released.

Eventually the domestic youth talent will become good enough, and trusted, for the first team. This will save clubs millions each year on players that act as squad players.

The English national team will have greater choice of top flight players. The figure is currently less than 30% in Premier League first teams. This advantage means the FA won’t fight the Premier League’s case for special treatment.

Like much of the Brexit debate, there has been a lot of scaremongering.

Just like Britain won’t return to the dark ages following exit from the EU, the Premier League won’t lose its place as one of the top destinations in Europe for players to perform. The best in the world will still come here, and any increase in price needs to be placed into context.

The finances in the Premier League are currently grotesque, a recalibration and reconsideration of where every pound goes isn’t a bad thing. In fact, it’s long overdue. Instead of being flippant with cash, maybe owners will be mindful of bringing in only the best, remembering it’s the working man in the stands that make it possible.

The Premier League will still thrive after Brexit, don’t let big business and the establishment tell you otherwise.


Made of Stone

Made of Stone

The Stone Roses are once again back in Manchester. After the 2012 Heaton Park reunion the unknown has been replaced with a new question: Will they fill four nights of gigs with unheard material?

Leading up to the Heaton Park performances the fear was the band would no longer have the magic. That history had made The Stone Roses the thing of legend. That a reunited band, most likely driven purely by money, would desecrate the memory of something that was fleeting yet special.

The causes of a collapse were made before any evidence surfaced. Ian Brown was a prime target. Bootleg copies of old gigs revealed a voice that was left wanting. Even the most ardent fans braced themselves for a disappointment.

They needn’t have worried. The Stone Roses moved into the modern day effortlessly. The fears over performance immediately subsided. Even if Ian Brown had struggled to sing in 2012, it wouldn’t have mattered – the crowd did it for him. So timeless are the tracks from their two albums, age hadn’t harmed them at all.

Without the concerns they could no longer do it, one can rightly ask what makes this new Manchester experience a must see. Why did extra nights need to be put on? New track “All for One” indicated it was perhaps an old fashioned tour to promote new material. That reasonable assumption would be incorrect.

If the 2012 events were a heavy nostalgia trip, this one buckles under a weight of reminiscence surpassed only by a demand for tickets.

Out of twenty songs performed on the night, only two were new. The aforementioned “All for One” clearly designed for a quick feel-good stadium sing-a-long, that unlike the back catalogue, won’t survive the test of time.

This isn’t to say it was a bad night – far from it. But it was another live performance of their greatest hits album which is really just an album and a half worth of music. That’s all they have ever produced. And there lies the initial fear from four years previous: what if they have nothing left in the creative tank?

Perhaps they don’t? But it doesn’t matter when what remains is so enduring.

Other bands can go under the radar with greatest hits tours, they pull their material from sources spanning decades. The Stone Roses lack that luxury, thus, are bound to face criticism.

Like a stone, they are hard to reshape now. Creatively they have become rigid, captured in time like a fossil. Pure nostalgia rather than pioneering or fresh. However, the audience seems to connect with this condition.

There were more bucket hats on the night than particles of confetti Chris Martin had spread on the Etihad weeks earlier. The fans no longer blown away by a return to form, just soothed into rose-tinted memories of an earlier time.

The Stone Roses have always been a snapshot of a band in their prime, a music scene at its peak. Maybe it is with careful plotting they have decided not to tarnish that with a modern take, allowing their followers to immerse themselves into a myopic musical memory.

Rock not Bust: Axl/DC Manchester

Rock not Bust: Axl/DC Manchester

Photo by Sakura –

With something more like trepidation than excitement, more intrigue than expectation, fans waited for Axl Rose to fill the void left by Brian Johnson’s departure from AC/DC. Many fans had been rumoured to have returned their tickets when news the Guns N’ Roses frontman would be part of the tour. This was confirmed by notable gaps around the Etihad Stadium in what was originally a sell-out.

In the article Hire Your Guns, even this writer poured cold water on the idea of an Axl led AC/DC tour. Thankfully those fears were ill-founded and every doubter in attendance will happily eat humble pie. That’s if there’s any left after Axl Rose himself has finished filling himself up.

The key to the Rock or Bust Tour‘s success appears to be how humbled the singer is. The self-serving aura, once as familiar as his bandana and screechy voice, has been replaced with focus and composure. This isn’t to say he’s lost his edge, he just isn’t over it anymore.

The show begins with the large video screens blasting us from outer space down to Earth. The first song is “Rock or Bust.” Axl walks into it (quite literally now, even with a leg brace) with a natural demeanour and perfect voice. But it’s the classics people are waiting to hear, worried they are minutes away from watching a band destroy its legacy.

It never happens.

“Shoot to Thrill” follows and then “Hell Ain’t a Bad Place to Be.” The latter providing a glimpse that would be later confirmed – Axl is more at home with the Bon Scott songs. That doesn’t stop the band diving straight into “Back in Black.”

Their bestselling song and most iconic Johnson number could have been an awkward moment but it passes as a thing of beauty. Again, Axl appears aware of the delicate position he is in. Rather than mimic the guy he replaced or try and reinvent the sound, he does what he was hired to do: give it the justice it deserves on the main stage.

Once the show starts, neither the band or audience look back. This is AC/DC at their best. Renditions of “Sin City” and “Riff Raff” breathe life into classics that have been underserved in modern times. This doesn’t feel like a substitute line-up anymore, rather a refreshed one with the ability to continue after this loan period. This isn’t elaborate karaoke but a viable alternative for an aging band.

Even with all the plaudits going to Axl Rose, some should be saved for Angus Young. For a guy in his sixties he shows no sign of age, in both his physical exertions or playing ability. He has always been the focus of live shows, now more than ever he is the face and force of the band. The unit only has the chance to shine because of his abilities.

Where the future lies for AC/DC only Angus truly knows. Axl has spoken of a desire to carry on, even record with the band, while Johnson believes he has found a hearing cure.

If the Australian rocker decides to stick with the Guns N’ Roses frontman, he won’t be short-changing the fans but breathing life into the line-up.