Sports world hopes for level playing field after Brexit
LONDON: With the fate of Brexit shrouded in uncertainty, Britain’s sporting world is increasingly concerned about the impact for players, fans and investors.
New restrictions on immigration from the EU after Brexit is a particular issue for football, although some see this as a positive for British players.
Access to top European talent such as Chelsea’s Belgian playmaker Eden Hazard is particularly important for the Premier League, the world’s most lucrative domestic football league.
The Premier League said earlier it has had “positive discussions with government about the importance of access to European players for our clubs, and the many cultural and economic benefits a globally popular Premier League brings to the UK”.
Just like in Britain as a whole, however, football team owners are divided on the pros and cons.
Steve Lansdown, the billionaire owner of second-tier side Bristol City, was one of the most highprofile business figures to support exiting the EU and believes football can benefit.
“Fewer people from abroad will come in,” he told AFP.
“Clubs will be more selective and the prospective players from abroad will have to pass a test.
“It will give more opportunity to English players to come through.”
Phil Garlick, chairman of Premier League side Burnley, instead has warned Brexit could be “hugely damaging” to English football and supports a second referendum.
“Ending freedom of movement will make it much more difficult for teams to attract the right talent, if the government brings in more restrictive conditions for work visas for players from Europe,” he has said.
Though less reliant on foreign players, rugby is also following the political wrangling closely because of the potential implications for European tournaments.
The first major test will come on March 29, 2019, the day Britain is due to exit the European Union.
It is also the day when the quarter-finals of European club rugby’s competitions get underway, which could mean travel chaos for teams and supporters alike.
For the moment, the competition’s organisers, Switzerland-based European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR), told AFP “they are closely monitoring the terms of the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union.”
File photo shows Ferrari’s German driver Sebastian Vettel leads at the first corner during the British Formula One Grand Prix at the Silverstone motor racing circuit in Silverstone, central England. Renault’s Executive Director Marcin Budkowski said there could be a rocky road ahead, again because of the changes to immigration rules. “Potentially yes it could be a problem,” he told AFP. “We employ different nationalities”.