East African football players are to find it extremely harder now to join and play football in the England after the Football Association tightened criteria and work permit regulations.

The players who are under the category of “non-EEA (European Economic Area)/ EU (European Union) football players” will have to meet considerably higher standards to make to it to the English Premier League.

The new tightened rules, approved by the Home Office on Friday, will come into effect across the entire Football League from May 1 according to sources and they will automatically restrict a very large number of players with dreams of playing for in the English top flight league.

The new “fundamental reform” will make sure the most talented non-European Union players i.e players from from Africa (including East Africa), Asia, Russia, North and South America – only meet the new criteria to play football in England.

Football Association Chairman Greg Dyke advocated for the change the rules governing home grown players, to offer them more opportunity to play in the premiership and to improve the chances of young English talent succeeding at the highest levels of the game hence the amendments.

What do the New Rules Stipulate?

Some of the new requirements state that “non-EEA (European Economic Area) players will have to meet a minimum percentage of international matches played for their country over the previous 24 month period, as determined by that country’s FIFA world ranking.”

Crucial Rule 1

Currently players must have played at least 75 per cent of their country’s senior competitive international matches over the past two years.

But that will change so that the required number of caps is staggered according to the country’s status.

Players will have to have played at least 30 per cent of matches in the last two years if their country is in the top 10, at least 45 per cent if it is ranked between 11th and 20th, at least 60 per cent if between 21st and 30th and at least 75 per cent if between 31st and 50th.

For Uganda who are 74th, Kenya who are 118th, 126th Burundi, 64th Rwanda and Tanzania placed 100th on the FIFA rankings, it means players must have featured almost in all Cranes, Harambe Stars, Burundi,Rwanda and Tanzania national football team matches to beat the percentage participation which is above 75% in the recent two years to play in the premier league.

Southampton’s Victor Wanyama
                                             Photo Credits: sportskeeda.com                     

If this rule had been changed before 2013, Southampton FC’s Victor Wanyama would have found his move more complicated from Celtic to the English Club since the rule would have required him to have played close to 100% of the national team matches due to their 106th FIFA rank then.

As it stands, no more players from East Africa are likely to join Victor Wanyama in any top flight English Premier League side unless they represent their country for greatly more than 75% of the country’s matches.

Crucial Rule 2                                                                                                                                                                       
Currently, players must have played for a country ranked in FIFA’s top 70 when rankings are averaged over the two years prior to the date of application to join any football side in England.

However also that bar will be lowered to the top 50 countries under the new regulations.

That change means Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya, Burundi and Tanzania among other nations below FIFA’s top 50 ranking will have to play for a higher FIFA rank most preferably above 50 for players to play in England.

Countries that cannot make FIFA’s top 50 are most likely never see to their players feature in any English Premier League. Among the East African countries, not even one is currently above FIFA’s top 60. Rwanda is the country close in the 64 position.

East Africa’s best, Uganda, moved to 63rd in 2010 on the World rankings (the best position in their football history) and since then nation has hit below the belt.

Hearts FC’s David Obua
                                              Photo Credits: dailyrecord.co.uk                                                                                                                                                                                 
This particular rule played part in highly rated winger David Obua’s failed move to West Ham before he later met similar barriers when he opted to settle for Hearts or Heart of Midlothian Football Club a club in Scotland.

Obua had featured for the Uganda National football team 30 times, but the nations rank in the whole world meant a barrier to getting his work permit. Hearts had to make an appeal to the appeals panel before approving a work permit for the player.

Hearts managing director Campbell Ogilvie was quoted by Dailyrecord.co.uk then, in 2013. “Uganda are outside the required world ranking level but it does provide a useful indication of what a good player David is that the work permit review panel granted the permit.”

“David is sure to be a valuable addition to Hearts – even although he is still a young player he as achieved great success and is likely to impress our supporters,” he added.

Less hope

Before making the changes, England FA led a formal consultation with the Premier League, Football League, LMA, PFA and Home Associations in September 2014 and the amendments will now take course though likely to be extra detrimental to the dreams of most of the East African Football players who still hope they will play for one of the English league sides one day.

Deputy Editor at Kawowo Sports. He is an aspiring Sport Psychologist.

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