The British mid-season transfer window witnessed a number of proposed transfers taken to the Home Office Appeal due to players not receiving an automatic work permit from the British Government. Socceroo Mile Sterjovski’s move from Turkish club Genclerbirligi to English Premier League (EPL) side Derby County was one such case. This case highlights the important implications for Australian players when circumstances require Football Federation Australia (FFA) to select only Australian or European based players to play in certain Socceroos matches.

To be eligible for an English work permit:

  1. a player must have played for his country in at least 75% of its competitive ‘A’ team matches when he was available for selection, during the two years preceding the date of the application; and
  2. the player’s country must be at or above 70th place in the official FIFA world rankings when averaged over the two years preceding the date of the application.

With Australia placed well within the top 70 in the FIFA rankings at 48, Mile definitely satisfied the second criteria. However, he did not receive an automatic work permit as he did not meet the first criteria of having played 75 per cent of international matches over the past two years for Australia. Crucially, Mile only missed the 75 per cent mark by one match and this was through no fault of his own. No European based Socceroo, including Harry Kewell, Tim Cahill or Mark Viduka, were selected for the match, which was an AFC Cup qualifier in Australia featuring A-League players only.

The PFA and Mile’s lawyer, Simon Konstantinidis, with the support of the English PFA, assisted Mile to a successful appeal and his move to Derby County has now been finalised. An important point raised in the appeal was that Mile’s transfer to the EPL would enhance the quality of the game. Fellow Socceroos based in the EPL including Mark Schwarzer, Brett Emerton and Mark Viduka provided key testimonials on behalf of Mile on this point. FFA was also very supportive by providing statistical information and testimonies, including a letter of reference from former Socceroos Coach, Graham Arnold.

The PFA’s Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with FFA contains the following important provisions which safeguards the rights of players to represent their country:

  • 7.1: With respect to player availability for national team matches and competitions, FFA and the PFA reaffirm that a player’s selection to play for his or her country represents the game’s highest honour and that this right shall not be compromised in any way. The parties shall encourage the full participation of Australian players in matches involving their country, recognising the unique opportunity Australian international matches at home present to promote and develop the game.
  • 7.3: In particular, FFA and the PFA agree that an A-League player shall not be prevented from playing for Australia where there is a conflict between the fixtures for the A-League and international matches, including the Socceroos. FFA shall endeavour to reduce the incidence of such conflict. A-League players of other nationalities shall be free to represent their country in accordance with the regulations of FIFA.

Occasionally, circumstances may prevent A-League players from being selected (eg. Australia’s recent home international in London against Nigeria). The PFA monitors these games to endeavour to ensure they will not subsequently adversely affect the rights of A-League players to seek a UK Work Permit.

Socceroo Mile Sterjovski.