Alexander Isak Newcastle United work permit explained: Why the delay and can he play Liverpool?

Alexander Isak has been made to wait to make his Newcastle United debut following his record £60million signing from Real Sociedad last week.

The Swedish forward travelled with the Newcastle squad to Wolverhampton Wanderers on Sunday but was forced to watch the 1-1 draw at Molineux from the stands as he hadn’t received his work permit.

Newcastle had submitted the registration forms in time for Isak to feature but a lack of an approved work permit prevents him from being involved in competitive matches.

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Here is a breakdown of the current situation surrounding the striker…

Alexander Isak at Newcastle United (photo: Getty Images).Alexander Isak at Newcastle United (photo: Getty Images).
Alexander Isak at Newcastle United (photo: Getty Images).

What is a work permit and why can’t you play without one?

A work permit is an official document that proves that an individual arriving from outside of the UK can work in the country.

Players without a British passport arriving at Premier League clubs from abroad must receive a work permit in order to play in competitive matches.

The Premier League will not deem a player eligible to play for a club unless evidence has been provided demonstrating that the player is able to to take up employment in the UK.

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This is as a result of a recent rule change following the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union.

As of January 1, 2021, all non-UK nationals – including EU nationals – have been subject to the FA’s ‘Governing Body Endorsement’ (GBE) criteria before they are granted clearance to transfer to an English football club.

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How is a work permit decided and could it be rejected?

In theory, a work permit can be rejected, but there have been no instances of major Premier League signings such as Isak being denied one.

The UK Home Office has a points based system that clubs must apply to The FA for a GBE for such players.

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The points system criteria considered a player’s senior international appearances and where the nation ranks according to FIFA. A player’s appearances and success at club level are also scrutinised among several other factors including the ‘quality’ of the league in which the player has competed in.

Given Isak is a regular senior international for a top 20 FIFA ranked nation in Sweden and has played regularly in La Liga in recent seasons means he automatically meets the criteria for work permit approval, it’s just a case of it being signed off.

Even if a player does not automatically meet the criteria, clubs can request an FA Exceptions Panel consider the player’s experience and value in order to determine whether a Governing Body Endorsement should be granted.

In the hypothetical event that Newcastle had to appeal to get Isak’s work permit approved, it would still be passed under an additional points scoring criteria.

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As Isak is a club record transfer at £60million, among the top earners at Newcastle, played in the Spanish top flight and Europa League for Real Sociedad last season – he would score the maximum of eight points, with only four points needed for an appeal to pass.

Why has there been a delay regarding Alexander Isak’s work permit?

Isak’s transfer to Newcastle was only confirmed on Friday but is still yet to be approved as of Tuesday morning.

Newcastle head coach Eddie Howe speculated that a reason for the delay could be down to the August bank holiday weekend seeing the UK Home Office out of action.

Given the high profile nature of the transfer, Newcastle are optimistic that it will be approved in time for Wednesday night’s trip to Liverpool (8pm kick-off) with Isak set to travel with the squad.

When will Newcastle United get the green light for Alexander Isak to play against Liverpool?

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The approval could come through at any time and may well be signed off as you read this.

But Newcastle have until 6:45pm on Wednesday evening to receive Isak’s work permit – just 15 minutes before the teams will be announced at Anfield – in order for him to play.

Any time after the 75 minute cut-off point before kick-off means the player will have to wait until Saturday's home match against Crystal Palace (3pm kick-off) to make his debut.

Can Alexander Isak train at Newcastle without a work permit?

Although it is a bit of a grey area as to what constitutes as ‘work’, Isak has been training fully with his new teammates at Newcastle.

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Howe said: “I don't think the [lack of] work permit stops you from doing certain things on the training pitch. He's done everything.

“He's been involved in the team and how the team players, his roles and responsibilities of what we do. We're gradually drip-feeding that into him."

It would seem that the only thing a lack of a work permit prevents a player from doing is actually playing in competitive matches.

What has Eddie Howe said about the situation?

Speaking at his pre-match press conference on Tuesday morning, Howe told reporters: “I don't know, I still don't know [if he can play against Liverpool.

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“I hope so, I desperately hope so. It would be great to see him involved but we're still in the hands of other people. It could go down to the wire.

"We've had minimal training with him but we've seen flashes of him but he's certainly an exciting player."

On the transfer itself, Howe added: “To be honest, it was very quick. There wasn't necessarily time to sit down and sell my vision and my work to him.

"That had already been done, really, by the time I met with him and spoke with him for the first time. Certainly, now he has joined, I will then be explaining everything to him and showing him how we will develop him while he is with us.”