Select your language

United States Offices

Search for a Santa Fe Employee or Office

Back to Knowledge Bank

football players

Is Football Providing More International Mobility Opportunities For Minors?

Posted: 02/11/2017              Author: Santa Fe Relocation

Is Football Providing More International Mobility Opportunities For Minors?

Recently, the footballers’ labour market has begun to pay less attention to national borders, resulting in the number of expatriate football team players increasing year on year, as suggested in the 19th Edition of the CIES Football Observatory. Whilst the number of footballers choosing to migrate abroad during their career is higher than ever, at the same time, the age of the first international migration is declining. Players that are deemed promising are snapped up by foreign clubs before the age of 18. Here at Santa Fe Relocation, we’re exploring the international mobility opportunities minors have in football.

Changing Trends

As expected, over the last twenty years, there has been a huge increase in the number of minors who have migrated, particularly within the five major European leagues. In fact, the number of young footballers who had experience of playing abroad rose from 24.1% in 1995 to 55.2% in 2015.

As a matter of fact, the age that minors are relocating abroad on average has steadily decreased in line with the increase in player migration, with the average now sitting around 21.1 years of age, as opposed to 23.2 years of age as reported in 1995. This comes with the broadening opportunities and growing financial capabilities of some of the biggest football clubs in the world, particularly amongst Europe’s top 5 biggest leagues: The Premier League, La Liga, Bundesliga, Ligue 1 and Serie A.  

In this short period of time, the number of aspiring footballers, who are under 18, leaving their home country and playing in Europe’s top 5 leagues, has more than tripled from 51 players in 1995, to 184 recorded in 2015. In the last two years, this number has increased yet again to 195.

International Networks

According to the FIFA regulations, under specific conditions, European clubs are permitted to recruit communitarian players from abroad when they reach the age of 16, and with the majority of countries around the world being UEFA member associations, this is easier than ever.

According to the same CIES report, Belgian players are most likely to experience an international transfer before their 18th birthday, closely followed by Swedish, French, Austrian and Hungarian footballers. However, one country clearly stands out as the prime location for players having migrated as minors; England. Out of all 597 footballers who migrated under the age of 18, 30.1% chose to play in England. Nevertheless, with the uncertainty of Brexit impacting a number of industries in the UK, the country’s international transfer of football players of all ages could become more difficult.

While some of the wealthiest clubs try to accommodate the most promising players before anyone else with early migration, it has to be said that, on average, players who migrate under the age of 18 have less rewarding careers than those who migrate with more experience.

How The Opportunities For Minors Impacts Families

While international mobility for under-age football players can provide exciting opportunities for the player’s themselves, there are a number of things that players will need to consider prior to making the decision to relocate. With many minors having to move with family in tow, parents will need to ensure that the decision for their children to move to a football club abroad is financially viable. Uprooting the entire family is a big decision, and this is something that the football clubs themselves may be able to help with, if they have an efficient global mobility programme in place for the purpose of scouting and relocating minors and their families.

For more information regarding international relocation and mobility opportunities for minors, get in touch with a member of our expert team today.