EU referendum: David Beckham backs Remain campaign

    Story highlights

    • David Beckham backs Remain campaign
    • Premier League also supports Britain in EU
    • Stoke chairman says players will be more costly
    • Ex-player Sol Campbell backs Leave campaign

    (CNN)David Beckham has weighed in on Brexit ahead of Britain's crucial referendum -- and the former England international has come down on the side of the Remain campaign about whether the UK should stay or leave the European Union.

    Now a UNICEF ambassador, Beckham posted a statement on his social accounts Tuesday calling for Britain to stay in Europe, citing some of his legendary Manchester United teammates from the continent, as well as his stints playing in Madrid, Milan and Paris as the reasons as to why he had come to that decision.
      "I'm passionate about my country and whatever the result of Thursday's referendum, we will always be great. Each side has the right to their opinion and that should always be respected whatever the outcome of the European Referendum," he wrote.
      "I played my best years at my boyhood club, Manchester United. I grew up with a core group of young British players ... but we were a better and more successful team because of a Danish goalkeeper, Peter Schmeichel, the leadership of an Irishman Roy Keane and the skill of a Frenchman in Eric Cantona.

      A photo posted by David Beckham (@davidbeckham) on

      "I was also privileged to play and live in Madrid, Milan and Paris with teammates from all around Europe and the world. Those great European cities and their passionate fans welcomed me and my family and gave us the opportunity to enjoy their unique and inspiring cultures and people."
      The Brexit debate has proved a fractious one at times as Britain's citizens decide whether to leave or remain. The debate has focused on issues such as security, immigration, sovereignty, and the economy.
      Beckham's wife Victoria was caught up in that fractiousness Tuesday after the Leave campaign made reference to an interview she gave to The Spectator magazine 20 years ago where she said: "The whole European Federal plan is ridiculous. We are patriotic. The single currency is an outrage. We want the Queen's head -- or the King's head if we have a king -- on our own coins."
      Unhappy at what she described as the Leave campaign putting "a spin on quotes made 20 years ago," Victoria made it clear she supported her husband's view on the referendum.
      "I believe in a future for my children where we are stronger together and I support the #remain campaign," she said on her Instagram account.
      Likewise her husband emphasized the importance of living in "a vibrant and connected world where together as a people we are strong."
      He added: "For our children and their children we should be facing the problems of the world together and not alone. For these reasons I am voting to Remain."

      'Open for business'

      The Beckhams' sentiments echoed those of Richard Scudamore, chief executive of the Premier League, which thrives on talent from across the continent.
      Speaking earlier in the week, Scudamore told BBC radio that Britain would be "less respected around the world," which is meaningful for a league with a majority of its clubs owned by international investors.
      Of the current 20 Premier League clubs, at least 12 are controlled by a diverse group of owners from Russia, the U.S., Iran, Egypt, Thailand, the U.A.E., Switzerland and Italy.
      "That doesn't seem to sit very well when you travel the world like we do being welcomed because of the fact that we are open for business, open for discussion, and open for cooperation." Scudamore said.
      "There is an openness about the Premier League which I think it would be completely incongruous if we were to take the opposite position.
      "Ultimately you can't break away, you can't just pull out, you have to get in and negotiate and try and organize and try and influence," he explained.

      'Envy'

      Peter Coates, chairman of Stoke City and one of the few British owners in the league, says Brexit would create a competitive disadvantage for the Premier League because of visa restrictions as well as rising player acquisition costs due to the likelihood of a weaker pound.
      "The other European will be pleased because they are rather envious of the success of the Premier League," Coates told CNN.
      "If (the players) are in Europe and have European passports, we simply do not have a problem, they just come," he added. "And if we're out of Europe that situation changes."
      Had the Premier League been forced to implement a restrictive visa policy for European players similar to the one in place for those outside the EU, then the likes of Leicester City's N'Golo Kante and West Ham's Dimitri Payet, both French and currently playing at Euro 2016, would not have qualified for their work permits last summer, according to the Daily Telegraph.
      "What we've got now works very well for us. What we have in the future should we leave won't be anything as good, and we'll definitely find it more difficult," Coates said.

      07-08-1999, debut Thierry Henry for Arsenal. It was a pleasure to play alongside one of the greatest signings in Arsenal history!!

      A photo posted by Dennis Bergkamp (@officialdennisbergkamp) on

      Opposing that view, however, is former Arsenal and England captain Sol Campbell, who says leaving the EU would eliminate "mediocre overseas footballers" from the continent that are crowding pitches and taking chances away from Brits.
      "The Premier League is in danger of becoming a free-for-all because, along with the star players, we are seeing teams load up with too many mediocre overseas footballers, especially from Europe, crowding out young English and British talent," he wrote in a column for the Mail on Sunday.
      "Because of European rules on freedom of movement, it is virtually impossible for us to get a proper grip on the situation.
      "Sometimes, when I watch a side with some pretty mediocre foreign footballers, I am thinking: 'Where is the English talent that could be out there now?' At the moment, there is not much we can do about it.
      "If we had proper control of who can come in and out of Britain, we could attract the best of the best wherever they come from, while not letting in those who will be less of an asset."
      Campbell, along with English teammate Ashley Cole, anchored the defense of the Arsenal "Invincibles" of 2004, still the only unbeaten side in Premier League history.
      The two were the only Brits to feature regularly on the squad.
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