Sources confirmed to Goal that Premier League sides Brighton and Crystal Palace made multi-million dollar offers for Blake this past summer after his outstanding CONCACAF Gold Cup showing.
Unfortunately for Blake and the interested clubs, the deals fell apart because Blake doesn’t qualify for a U.K. work permit. The main reason for Blake’s inability to secure a work permit? Jamaica’s low FIFA ranking.
Players who play regularly for national teams ranked in the top 50 of FIFA’s rankings qualify for work permits to play in England automatically. Jamaica is currently ranked 61st and hasn’t been in the top 50 in more than a decade. That reality has made it impossible for Jamaican players to make moves to the Premier League, even when teams have the desire and transfer resources to make it happen.
“I knew everything all the way, and it’s such a tough situation,” Blake told Goal when asked about the Premier League transfer options falling through this summer. “But I can’t get too worked up over it, even though it’s a very good opportunity I’m missing out on. Maybe it’s not time yet, or maybe it wasn’t meant to be. I’ve just got to keep working hard and maybe some day, some how, if it’s supposed to be it will happen.”
Red Bulls left back Kemar Lawrence also generated interest from teams in the Premier League and League Championship.
“It’s hard to know that you want to play in that top division, that top league, and you can’t get to go because of stipulations like that,” Lawrence told Goal. “It’s their rules and you have to live by it.
Jamaican players had long enjoyed a good track record of success in England, but things changed in the summer of 2015, when U.K. work permit restrictions tightened, and suddenly instead of needing simply to be a regular player for a team in the top 70 of FIFA’s rankings, the bare minimum threshold was the top 50.
Players such as current Reggae Boyz coach Theodore Whitemore, Ricardo Gardner and Ian Goodison, who were all key fixtures on the 1998 Jamaican World Cup team, the last Jamaican team to play in the World Cup.