Post-Brexit recruitment: predicting the eligibility of overseas players

The start of January not only signals the opening of the transfer window but also the end of the United Kingdom’s membership to the European Union and the introduction of new rules to restrict the signing of overseas players. We take a look at what these changes mean for Premier League and EFL clubs, and explain how the Ai Abacus portal can be used to predict the eligibility of transfer targets.


New rules agreed by the FA, Premier League, EFL and Government will come into force from 1st January 2021. Unlike previous years, players from the EU will no longer be automatically eligible to play in the UK, with new entry criteria put in place for all overseas signings.

The major changes that Premier League and EFL clubs will have to deal with are:

  • An inability to sign overseas players under the age of 18
  • A new points-based system to assess a players’ eligibility


Unsurprisingly, there was a shift in the summer towards the recruitment of under 18s from overseas, with a host of Premier League sides – such as Chelsea and Manchester United – snapping up some of Europe’s best prospects before the impending deadline.

The other notable change is the introduction of a new points-based system, which will see players from the EU having to gain a GBE (Governing Body Endorsement), as will all other overseas players without the right to work in the UK. The six criteria used to assess eligibility are summarised in the below graphic.

Whilst the new rules will restrict the recruitment of Premier League and EFL clubs, they will also present new opportunities to sign players from leagues known for producing talented players. The top leagues in Brazil, Argentina and Mexico have all been placed in Band 3, which should make it easier to sign players from these leagues based on the new points system. See the below graphic for a breakdown of which leagues will fit into each of the six ‘Bands’.


We’ve introduced a new ‘GBE Status’ feature to our online analytics portal, using criteria outlined by the FA. This feature enables football clubs and player agents to instantly predict the eligibility of overseas players, helping to inform scouting and recruitment decisions.

Each players’ GBE Status will be displayed on their Player Profile within the portal, whilst it can also be used in our Advanced Search feature to filter thousands of players from around the world based on their eligibility. As these are new rules recently announced by the FA, there will be edge cases and different interpretations. Therefore, our GBE Status feature should be used as a guide and a way of predicting how likely a player is to meet the criteria.


Using our GBE Status feature, we have identified how many players in leagues around the world would be ‘eligible’ for a transfer (15+ senior GBE points). This analysis doesn’t take into account injury data or include any players who have a total of 10-14 points but may still be eligible based on youth criteria or via an appeal. The GBE criteria is largely based on player and club performance so the pool of eligible players will fluctuate, however the below graphic is accurate as of the date of publishing (Thursday 17th December 2020).

A standout nation is Brazil with their top league having 217 eligible players. Our recent blog analysed the value for money of 53 leagues around the world and found defenders and forwards playing in the Brazilian Serie A represent high value for money compared to the top European leagues. Read our blog here to find out how other leagues ranked in terms of value for money, and compare with the new league bandings to identify those that may be of greater interest to Premier League and EFL clubs once the new rules come into play from 1st January 2021.

Register your interest below to find out more about how Ai Abacus can help inform your scouting and recruitment decisions.

Check out our more recent blog on the practical implications of Brexit and it might affect recruitment decisions – click here to read.