Appeal denied, so Guzan stays in MLS

On the basis of playing just five internationals for the U.S., only one of which was a competitive match, an appeals panel turned down Brad Guzan's application for a UK work permit Thursday. Soccer America's Ridge Mahoney explains how Guzan's case differed from other American keepers who made it to the English Premier League.

 

The pending $4 million transfer to English Premier League club Aston Villa is thus null and void, and Guzan remains the property of MLS and Chivas USA. If another British club wishes to sign him in the summer, it can petition for a work permit, but Villa could not petition on Guzan's behalf until early next year.

Agent Richard Motzkin, who represents Guzan and gathered the evidence that was presented at the appeal hearing, said the decision was, "Very surprising, as everyone was reasonably optimistic heading in and, by all accounts, a better presentation could not have been made."

Aston Villa manager Martin O'Neill spoke to the panel on Guzan's behalf. Letters of recommendation and videos were presented.

"We're very disappointed with the outcome as we were really looking forward to Brad joining us but unfortunately it wasn't to be," said O'Neill on the club's Web site. Glasgow Celtic, ironically the club O'Neill coached before joining Villa, initially bid 1 million pounds ($2 million) for Guzan in early January. Villa blew that offer out of the water.

In most European countries, each team is permitted an allotment of non-EU players and is free to sign players of any nationality or level of experience if they are 18 or older. To be granted a work permit to play in the United Kingdom, a non-EU worker must have played in 75 percent of his team's competitive 'A' internationals during the two calendar years prior to the date of application, and the nation must be ranked in the top 70.'

If a player meets those benchmarks, and clears a medical exam and routine security check, a permit is issued by the British Home Office, which oversees immigration and visa procedures in the UK. Appeals are heard by a panel, whose decision is final.

When Manchester United bought Tim Howard from MLS in 2003, his application was at first denied on the basis of insufficient caps, but as he is eligible for an EU passport through the Hungarian heritage of his mother, he won his appeal on that basis. Marcus Hahnemann's German heritage qualifies him for EU status.

Eddie Johnson
's move to Fulham last month needed an appeal, as he was just short - 72 percent - of the caps requirement. The requirements and benchmarks for UK permits have changed many times since the procedure was first implemented in the early 1990s. U.S. keeper Brad Friedel failed on three separate occasions to earn a work permit before finally scoring with Liverpool in 1997.

"O'Neill was compelling, the letters of support were tremendous and the written/video evidence was very strong," said Motzkin. "Given the above, and the positive performance of American goalkeepers in the Premier League, it truly was a very disappointing day for all.

"That being said, Brad will continue to work hard, be a professional and it remains only a question of when, not if, he will go to Europe."

 

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