- The hastily negotiated Brexit deal could have unprecedented consequences for football clubs, in terms of the scouting, recruiting and development of young talent.
- Manchester City, under the ownership of Sheikh Mansour and the City Football Group (CFG), have unlocked the solution to these regulatory challenges.
City Football Group (CFG), a holding company owned by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayad Al Nahyan, a prominent member of the Royal Family of Abu Dhabi, and a subsidiary of the Abu Dhabi United Group, was founded in 2013, and owns a number of football related businesses around the world.
This includes marketing companies, technical support, academies, and football clubs. There are a total of ten football clubs that fall under the ownership of City Football Club, some of these include:
- Manchester City (England)
- New York City FC (USA)
- Mumbai FC (India)
- Melbourne City FC (Australia)
- Girona FC (Spain)
Initially, the main aim was thought to be commercial deals and partnerships having a number of football clubs under the same umbrella. Gradually, and after a significant degree of investment, the focal aims of this venture have evolved to enhance football participation on and off the field, to facilitate football at the grass-root level, and to foster the development of the best footballing talent available.
This global, yet inherently local approach is in turn helping each club the parent company owns, and club football as a whole; with exemplary examples including unorthodox footballing ventures in India (Mumbai City FC), Japan (Yokohama F Marinos), and as far as the "down-under" in Australia (Melbourne City FC).
Moreover, managers and coaches from any one of the owned clubs can move to another, in addition to players and other personnel.
Despite owning ten clubs across the globe, the biggest and most important of them to CFG is Manchester City, and for obvious reasons - being the largest club in terms of both financial clout and recent footballing success. Since its acquisition by Sheikh Mansour in 2008, the club has won a host of league titles and domestic cup competitions.
Amid such notable successes, there is a growing concern and determination around the club to eventually win the coveted UEFA Champions League (the biggest and most prestigious cup competition in the world), as it is the only major trophy City have not held their hands on. That said, City are taking it one step at a time to ensure they remain ahead of the curve in the search for more football silverware.
There is little doubt however, that CFG think of themselves as an organization from (or for) the future. Nitpicking talent from such a diverse pool of footballers, and by training them with a unique one-for-all approach, is certainly a futuristic approach. At best, it can help Manchester City in miraculous ways – given the fact that Brexit and its unprecedented regulatory challenges are just around the corner.
According to Brexit and new regulations for football, clubs would not be permitted to sign U-18 players from foreign countries. They can, however, sign the players once they reach the age of eighteen. This has caused many doubts over the future of football scouting in the UK, particularly for the bigger sides that play in the Premier League, as they have the most expansive scouting networks in all corners of the world.
The search for raw talent will get as complicated as ever. Moreover, European players that fell under the category of EU will now be considered just the same as players from “the rest of the world”, when it comes to work permits visa regulations; especially considering the limitations of international travel and mobility in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
Manchester City and Brexit:
Manchester City’s current policy of scouting and signing the best young talent in the continent (U16s) will no longer be permitted. Previously, while signing players such as Rodri, Mahrez, and Sane – there was little to no hindrance involved due to the UK and the player’s respective country falling under the banner of the European Union. However, once the new regulations are put into effect, work permits will definitely become a restrictive hassle if not a major barrier.
In addition, FIFA regulations now state that a club may not have more than six players out on loan at the same time. This rule is relatively less intrusive for Manchester City, as they can loan out players from partner clubs to other clubs and meet the same objective, albeit without violating any rule. Being a part of the CFG enables Manchester City to sign U-18 players for any of their other eight partner clubs; certainly falling under a legal grey area, without any definitive repercussions.
Manchester City can still scout these players and get any other clubs under the CFG umbrella to sign them. The core principles of gameplay and tactics will be those of the City Group, and these U-18 players can be refined till they reach the age of eighteen, and conclusively, Manchester City can sign them officially and bring them to England.
This is certainly a very future-oriented approach and it would be interesting to see what 18-year-old prospects Manchester City bring to England, having already instilled the club's philosophy in their youth signings. Other big football clubs such as Manchester United and Liverpool might be at a disadvantage to CFG’s approach in the aftermath of the loosely-defined Brexit deal.
Manager Pep Guardiola and his coaching staff will certainly relish this opportunity of having a stellar approach while the rest of the English footballing world rues at the probable chances missed of acquiring, developing, and eventually enabling world class footballing talent play for their team in the long run.