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How Watford can secure a work permit for Adalberto Penaranda

Watford had such difficulty in securing Victor Ibarbo a work permit and then overcoming the complex rules surrounding the status and transfer of players to find the winger a third club he was allowed to play for in the same season, that they were probably relieved to get shot of the Colombian last month. But the signing of another South American, albeit one with seemingly significantly more ability, could force them to negotiate even more red tape in the summer if they are to secure a work permit for Adalberto Penaranda under the Football Association’s new regulations. The club’s football secretary Gayle Vowells will certainly be earning her salary.

The old work permit system for the Premier League, compiled by the Home Office and the FA, previously insisted that a player had played 70 per cent of international games for their country in the last two years and be from a country ranked in Fifa’s s top 70 nations to demonstrate they were of a high standard. The previous system was full of grey area and afforded clubs too much latitude, according to outgoing FA chairman Greg Dyke who described it as “a bit of a farce”. The statistics would back him up. As of March 2015, the appeal process produced a 79 per cent success rate in players being cleared to play in England.

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Penaranda, born in Venezuela, is ineligible for an automatic work permit. Venezuela are not in the top 50 in the Fifa rankings (they are ranked at 81) and, anyhow, Penaranda has not yet appeared on the radar of the Venezuela national team manager, having only represented his country at under-17 and under-20 level.

Penaranda must be judged by the new Exceptions Panel instead.

The new system was rolled out in May and uses a new point-based system to decide whether a player is granted a Governing Body Endorsement (GBA). A GBA will, in turn, earn them a work permit. The entire process is overseen by an Exceptions Panel, comprising three members appointed by the FA; an independently appointed and legally qualified chairperson and two additional independents with “relevant experience at the top level of the game”. They will consider the player’s experience and circumstances against the criteria below to decide whether a permit is granted. Four points is enough to land one:

  • 3 points – The value of the Transfer Fee being paid for the player is above the 75th percentile of Qualifying Transfers
  • 2 points – The value of the Transfer Fee being paid for the player is between the 50th and 75th percentile (inclusive) of Qualifying Transfers
  • 3 points – The Wages being paid to the player by the applicant club are above the 75th percentile of Qualifying Wages
  • 2 points – The Wages being paid to the player by the applicant club are between the 50th and 75th percentile (inclusive) of Qualifying Wages
  • 1 point – The player’s current club is in a Top League and the player has played in 30% or more of the available domestic league minutes
  • 1 point – The player’s current club has played in the group stages or onwards of a Continental Competition within the last 12 months and the player has played in 30% or more of the available domestic league minutes

According to the FA, the definition of a Qualifying Transfer is: “All transfers to the Premier League in the previous two transfer windows in respect of players submitted on Premier League squad lists. The Qualifying Transfers value will be provided by the FA directly to the Premier League and the Football League prior to each transfer.”

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While the FA does not release the figures it will use in their criteria, the £8m we are told Watford will pay Udinese should fulfil that requirement. The criteria related to qualifying wages could be more difficult to meet, though.

Qualifying Wages relates to “the basic wages paid to the top 30 earners in each Premier League club at the closure of each window prior to the date of the application. The value of Qualifying Wages will be provided by the FA directly to the Premier League and the Football League.”

Again, such figures relating to wages are not made public but, in layman’s terms, Penaranda must be one of Watford’s top 15 earners if he is to claim the two points that criteria offers.

In this primary process, the Exceptions Panel recognises Spain’s La Liga as a Top League outlined in its criteria – plus Penaranda has featured in at least 30 per cent of available domestic league minutes for Granada to win another point in the process. Watford could, if they wish, insist Penaranda plays enough games between now and the end of the season to maintain that percentage but, judging by his performance against Real Madrid on Sunday, he seems a certain starter.

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The final criteria from the primary stages call for the player’s club to have played in at least the group stages of a Continental Competition in the last 12 months. Granda have not been involved in European football so he is going to struggle to earn a point there.

There is a secondary review stage should Watford need it. Should a player not get the required four points from the primary stage, a second criteria allows a candidate to make up that tally. In the event of this, the threshold required rises from four points to five (including any points from first level of criteria).

  • 1 point – The value of the Transfer Fee being paid for the player is within 20 per cent of the 75th and 50th percentile of Qualifying Transfers
  • 1 point – The Wages being paid to the player by the applicant club are within 20 per cent of the 75th and 50th percentile of Qualifying Wages
  • 1 point – The player’s current club is in a Secondary League and the player has played in 30% or more of the available domestic league minutes
  • 1 point – The player’s current club has played in the group stages or onwards of a Continental Competition within the last 12 months and the player has played in 30% or more of the available domestic league minutes

The secondary review is, to all intents and purposes, a repeat of the primary, but with the rules slightly relaxed. To get points here, Penaranda’s fee must be within 20 per cent of the 50th percentile of the average Premier League transfer fee over the past two years. Similarly, his wages can be within a 20 per cent reach of Watford’s 15th best paid player.

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Even if an applicant fails to get the required points from the primary and secondary reviews, there is a third review stage that takes into account “subjective criteria”.

In summary, you can bet Watford have been through this process themselves and are perfectly aware of what requirements they must fulfil. Chief executive Scott Duxbury, after all, is a qualfied lawyer. Given the club worked on the deal for three days at the end of the window, they must fancy their chances of gaining clearance for Penaranda to play in the Premier League.