In Depth

Brexit could mean no more stars like Tuilagi and Pietersen

Leaving the EU could restrict the number of sportsmen from beyond Europe coming to the UK and scare off the NFL

Much has been written about the effect of Brexit on the Premier League, but Britain's shock decision to withdraw from the EU could have a significant effect on other sports in the UK.

Cricket and rugby are both likely to be hit by the decision, which could undermine the Cotonou Agreement and the Kolpak Ruling in 2003 that have enabled players like Manu Tuilagi to become England internationals.

"Many rugby and cricket players arrive in the Aviva Premiership and county cricket through the 'Cotonou agreement', a treaty between the European Union and the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States," explains Sky Sports. It gives citizens from countries, including Fiji and Samoa, similar rights to EU citizens.

"In cricket, the 'Kolpak Ruling', which is also used in both codes of rugby, gives citizens of countries which have signed European Union Association Agreements the same rights."

Kolpak players are not classed as foreign, which helps clubs improve their teams despite rules governing the number of "foreign" players. 

Paul Shapiro, an associate at the law firm Charles Russell Speechlys, told The Guardian: "If EU law ceases to apply in the UK, the organisers of sports competitions may be able to more effectively restrict the number of foreign players that feature in match day squads as they could potentially include EU nationals and Kolpak players within any foreign player quota. 

"Some governing bodies may see this as advantageous in that it would allow them to discriminate in favour of the development of English-qualified players to the potential advantage of the national team whereas it could be damaging to leagues/clubs who would be less competitive in their ability to attract the best players from across the continent."

But it could harm national sides as well. Kevin Pietersen qualified for England under the Kolpak rule and it was the EU agreements that allowed Manu Tuilagi's older brothers to play rugby in England, which is how he and his Samoan family ended up in the country.

The decision could also endanger "London's status as the sporting capital of Europe, if not the world", says the Daily Telegraph. The capital has become "the go-to destination for major sporting championships and for American sports looking to expand their audience", claims the paper.

But Maria Patsalos, a sports immigration partner at the law firm Mishcon de Reya, claimed that the hugely popular NFL London series could now be in doubt: "The way the NFL view it is that London is a gateway to Europe," she told the paper. "My view is that... they will reconsider that deal."

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