Photographer: Paul Gilham/Getty Images

U.K. Soccer Fans Told of `Devastating Consequences' of `Brexit'

  • Would make signing European players harder, Karren Brady says
  • `Stronger In' campaign writes to professional club boards

Soccer teams will suffer if Britain votes in a referendum to leave the European Union, Karren Brady, a Conservative lawmaker who’s also vice chairman of English Premier League side West Ham United, said in a letter to club chairmen on Friday.

Restrictions on free movement of workers would make it more difficult to sign top European players, Brady said, while pointing out the benefits of visa-free travel and lower mobile-phone charges for fans traveling to watch their teams. EU funding also helps “grassroots” soccer, she said in the letter published by the “Stronger In” campaign group.

“Cutting ourselves off from Europe would have devastating consequences for the economy and the competitiveness of British football and would stand in stark contrast to football’s spirit of openness and inclusion,” said Brady, who was chief executive officer of another club, Birmingham City, from 1993 to 2009. “Leaving the EU would hurt our leagues, create uncertainty for European transfers and be a step back for the next generation of footballers.”

With the possibility of the referendum on EU membership being held as soon as June, the campaign to remain part of the 28-nation bloc is seeking to make the decision relevant to hard-to-reach voters. Brady asked club chairmen to speak to their teams’ fans about the benefits of staying in to encourage their involvement.

There are almost 200 EU players in the Premier League who have benefited from freedom of movement, Brady, who sits in the upper, unelected House of Lords for Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservatives, said in the letter.

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