Brexit will cause Kolpak drain – but impact on county cricket may not be wholly positive

A recent cricket story caught my attention.

Apparently, Brexit will impact significantly on ‘Kolpak’ signings for the professional game.

Not so long ago I had no idea what a Kolpak signing was.

I have since learned that it is a non-EU citizen who nevertheless has the right to work and therefore play sport in the EU.

And they are not counted as an ‘overseas’ player – only one of which is allowed in county cricket and two in T20.

Maros Kolpak is the name of the Slovak handball player who secured a court ruling in 2003 stating there couldn’t be a restriction of trade within the EU, whether as a handball player or a cricketer or anything else.

Morne Morkel has been playing for Surrey on a Kolpak deal

With the UK now having left the EU, it means there will more than likely be no such thing as a Kolpak player as far as English cricket is concerned from next year.

This has caused a stir among cricket fans and I have been following the fallout closely on social media.

The initial reaction was predominantly that this was great. It would mean more England-qualified players getting an opportunity for their counties.

But then there was a counter reaction from some. It was recognised that when there was a reduction in Kolpak players in the game about 10 years ago, the standard of county cricket suffered. Arguably Kolpak players added some depth to a diluted game.

The fascinating element of this for me is that the country from which the vast majority of Kolpak players come is South Africa (due to their trade agreement with the EU), whose national team England have just beaten 3-1 away in a Test series.

South African cricket is desperately trying to hold itself together while there is a talent drain to England.

Vernon Philander going to Somerset is the latest high-profile player to move here. Brexit will almost certainly put a stop to this.

Philander has signed for Somerset for 2020 having retired from Test cricket

So Brexit will have a significant impact on our domestic game, but it will do the same for the South African domestic game – and in turn their national side.

Because once a South African player goes ‘Kolpak’, they give up their right to play for the national team.

While some English cricket fans have complained about signings such as these taking opportunities from home-grown talent, have they recognised the positive impact they have had on our game, both domestically and internationally?

South African seamer Duanne Olivier has been at Yorkshire on a Kolpak deal

Arguably they have bolstered our domestic game, while simultaneously damaging the South African domestic game and, in turn, one of our rivals on the international stage.

It’s a strange set of circumstances – one I haven’t noticed in another sport.

Here’s a thought: as football fans, would we want something to happen that gave more opportunities to English players in the Premier League, but that simultaneously allowed Germany to rebuild on the international stage?

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