What foreign footballers need to do to drive legally in the UK?

The influx of foreign players into football over the past 20 years or so has certainly seen the British game graced with some wonderful talent. From Dennis Bergkamp to Thierry Henry, these stars have brought new playing styles that have wowed crowds. If you are an overseas footballer looking to play on these shores, however, it’s important to make sure you are legally allowed to drive on UK roads.

Admittedly, it may not be the first thing that will spring to mind as you attempt to adjust to playing in a new country, but it is something worth taking into account. As obvious as it may sound, if you’ve got an overseas driving licence from your country of residence, you should not expect that this will always be allowed for the duration of your stay here.

You only have to look at the case of Manchester City star Carlos Tevez, who had his car seized by police in 2009 after he was found to not have a full UK driving licence. Here, his Bentley Continental GT Speed car was impounded after he was found to only have an Argentinean driving licence. While you may have thought having one car being temporarily taken off you would give you the impetus to ensure you follow the relevant laws in the future, it seems Tevez didn’t quite learn his lesson.

In November 2012, his car – this time a Porsche Panamera – was seized, once again because didn’t have a UK licence. As such, the striker’s failure to provide identification meant he was given six penalty points which, combined with him being caught for breaking the speed limit, resulted in him being given a temporary ban.

Although it is possible to use your country’s own native licence in the UK for a specific period of time, there will come a point when you will have to get proper accreditation from the British authorities.

Failing to do so not only means that you’ll be breaking the law (where you could face a driving ban and /or a fine), but also be likely to incur the wrath of your manager. No matter who your team is or league that you play in, it’s fairly safe to say you don’t want to get on the wrong side of your gaffer for being caught up in a driving dispute when you should be giving your full concentration to playing and training!

So, how do you ensure you don’t fall into the same trap as Tevez? If your licence was issued from somewhere in the European Union or the European Economic Area, you will be allowed to this for three years after becoming a British resident.

However, if you’re not from such one of these nations (like Tevez, for instance) you are allowed to drive in the UK for the first 12 months of your stay in the country. From that point onwards, however, you will then be required to apply for a provisional licence and pass the driving theory and practical tests in the same way as British nationals.

In some cases, however, you might be able to exchange a foreign driving licence for up to five years after you have become a UK resident (provided it continues to remain valid for this time). This only applies to the list of designated countries that have an exchange agreement with Britain – which includes Australia, Canada, Switzerland, Japan and South Africa – and you will need to pay a fee to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency to do so.

Given the temporary nature of exchanging a foreign driving licence, however, you may find it easier to apply for a British one, particularly if you plan on playing in the UK for a long time.

Of course, getting a proper licence isn’t the only thing you to do to make sure you have when driving on UK roads. Indeed, you’ll also need footballer car cover. This will provide vital financial protection in the event you’re in an accident or are a victim of vandalism, as well as cover you when taking your vehicle overseas.

If you’re a footballer, please share your experiences of ensuring that you are legally allowed to drive on UK roads, from getting the right license to obtaining car insurance, by leaving a comment below.