BCFC: Mystery Trialists

When the party for Birmingham City’s pre-season tour to Austria was announced, it was also confirmed that the 24th man of the party was an unnamed trialist. As of Wednesday night the trialist has still not been named with the only word coming from Harry Redknapp being that the player isn’t technically a trialist at all.

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If you watched me on Youtube Live on Tuesday night you’ll know that I guessed as to who it was – and got it completely wrong.

Having seen the name Kristoffersen on a team sheet and knowing it was red tape that was stopping the trialist from being named, I guessed it was midfielder Tomas Kristoffersen of Sandnes Ulf who was the trialist.

Kristoffersen actually referred to Julian Kristoffersen, a 20 year old free agent who plays as a striker and was last with FC Copenhagen. Kristoffersen was on trial prior to the Austria trip but never travelled and the club have declined to take his trial any further.

Brian Dick of the Birmingham Mail, who is in Austria with the squad, asked Harry Redknapp about the trialist after the Union Berlin game – and the answer Redknapp gave was illuminating to say the least.

“He’s not even on trial.

“There’s a problem getting the insurance and all that. He’s just here at the moment.

“It’s been a bit difficult. If we could get a work permit for him he would be of interest. But apparently it will be very difficult.

“I don’t want to name him in case somebody else gets a work permit.”

This is interesting in itself because the subtext is that Blues want the player enough to take him on tour, and are anxious for his name not to get out so they can’t be gazumped – something I can willingly understand.

Work permits for players can only be obtained once a contract has been offered. If Blues are worried that another club might “get a work permit” that says to me that they are trying to keep the deal under wraps until they get it sorted out; lest another team offer a better deal.

The rules for work permits have changed in the last couple of years but are relatively simple to understand.

Players who have an EU passport do not require a work permit to play in the UK as they are covered (until Brexit is completed) by the EU’s freedom of movement laws – the same ones which allow me to work in Poland. This includes players who play for a non-EU country but also hold an EU passport.

Players who do not have an EU passport must receive a “Governing Body Endorsement” (GBE) from the FA prior to receiving a work permit from the Home Office. Law firm Mills and Reeve give an excellent explanation here.

To automatically obtain a GBE, a player must fulfil certain requirements with regard to international appearances. Depending on their nation’s place in the FIFA rankings, they have to appear in a certain percentage of competitive international games in the past two years. Players who are under the age of 21 must appear in that percentage in the last one year.

Teams ranked 1 – 10 : 30% of competitive internationals. This includes players from Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Colombia.

Teams ranked 11- 20 : 45% of competitive internationals. This includes players from Peru, Croatia, Mexico and Uruguay

Teams ranked 21 – 30 : 60% of competitive internationals. This includes players from Iran, Egypt, Ukraine, Costa Rica, Senegal, Congo DR and Bosnia.

Teams ranked 31 – 50 : 75% of competitive internationals. This includes players from Ecuador, Turkey, USA, Tunisia, Cameroon, Nigeria, Paraguay, Serbia, Burkina Faso, Australia, Japan, Algeria, Haiti, and Ghana.

Outside of the top 50 it is impossible to get an automatic qualification for a GBE.

For players that don’t meet those requirements, there is an “Exceptions Panel”. This is much more involved and complex – and requires things like the cost of the transfer and player wages to be high. This is why Blues would have had to have paid £7.89million in transfer fee and £32k per week in wages to Henry Onyekuru.

Whether this means Blues are now waiting for an Exceptions Panel to agree whether we can sign the player or not, or for the red tape to go through for an automatic qualification I do not know.

However, I think from knowing the rules it’s possible to think about what kind of player it’s going to be – if of course we sign them.

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