Brexit means Brexit and for Brighton & Hove Albion, it could also mean Percy Tau being granted a British work permit to finally become a Premier League footballer.
Albion signed the Lion of Judah from Mamelodi Sundowns for £2.5 million in the summer of 2018. Unfortunately, because of South Africa’s lowly place outside of the FIFA World Ranking top 50, he did not qualify for the right to work in England.
As a result, Tau has spent two-and-half years out on loan in Belgium, representing Union Saint-Gilloise, Club Brugge and Anderlecht in an attempt to rack up enough points to qualify for a work permit through his achievements in a European league and through continental competitions.
Tau has enjoyed himself during his time in Belgium. He was named as the Proximus League Player of the Season in 2018/19 and followed that up with a Jupiler League winners medal in 2019/20 as Club Brugge became Belgian champions.
None of that though has been enough to help Tau earn the right to come to England. Nor were his exploits in helping South Africa reach the quarterfinals of the African Cup of Nations in 2019, including knocking out hosts Egypt and a certain Mo Salah.
Bafana Bafana remained outside of the world’s top 50 and that continued to hamper Albion’s hopes of unleashing the Lion of Judah on the Premier League.
Until now. With Brexit ending freedom of movement for Europeans to live and work in the United Kingdom freely, the FA have taken the opportunity to introduce new qualification criteria for footballers worldwide.
And the good news is that under the updated system, Percy Tau is within touching distance of gaining a work permit to become a Brighton & Hove Albion player.
Players require 15 points to gain a GBE, giving them the right to come and play in England. These points are based on domestic minutes played, continental competition minutes played, the finishing position of the player’s current club, their progression in continental competitions and the standard of the domestic league they play in.
The Belgian Jupiler League is band 2, the second strongest group of leagues. Tau can therefore rack up 10 points for being registered with Anderlecht this season or Club Brugge last season.
A further five points are awarded to individuals who played in 40% of available domestic minutes in that league. Tau’s game time for Anderlecht in 2020/21 amounts to 1,082 minutes out of 1,710, or 63%.
Tau’s game time in 2020/21 is worth five points and his registration with Anderlect 10, giving him the 15 points he needs to qualify for a British Work Permit under the new system.
Should Tau fall just short of the points total, then Brighton can still appeal for a work permit to be granted. They took that route with Alexis Mac Allister last January when a surprise window of opportunity opened for the Argentinian to cut short his loan with Boca Juniors.
So surprising was it that Brighton had failed to insert a recall clause into his deal with Boca, leading to the farcical scenario of the Albion having to negotiate a fee to sign their own player.
No such mistakes have been made this time around and we know that Brighton have ensured a recall option was included in Tau’s Anderlecht loan.
Fingers crossed, it is just a matter of time before we finally see Tau in Brighton blue. After 30 months of waiting and around 10 million comments from enthusiastic South Africans on the club’s Facebook page asking where Percy is, the Lion of Judah is perilously close to becoming an actual Albion player.