Sports world ner­vous about Brexit’s im­pact

Move­ment could heav­ily af­fect foot­ball, rugby

Bangkok Post - - GENERAL -

>> 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 high-pro­file 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 quar­ter­fi­nals 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 “they are closely mon­i­tor­ing the terms of the United King­dom’s exit from the Euro­pean Union.”

Si­mon Keogh, the CEO of Rugby Play­ers Ire­land, said Brexit could prove costly to the Ir­ish Rugby Foot­ball Union (IRFU) or for Ul­ster play­ers like Ire­land cap­tain Rory Best.

“They are paid in ster­ling but that and their bonuses, which are ne­go­ti­ated in eu­ros, will be af­fected if ster­ling spikes,” Keogh told AFP.

“This more than the travel is­sue is po­ten­tially more volatile.

“It isn’t that the boys are too mo­ti­vated by the money but they still have to pay their mort­gages.”

A neg­a­tive im­pact on in­comes would be par­tic­u­larly un­wel­come for Ir­ish play­ers at the mo­ment.

Ir­ish rugby is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing an an­nus mirabilis with Ir­ish prov­ince Le­in­ster the cur­rent Euro­pean cham­pi­ons while the na­tional side swept the Six Na­tions Grand Slam and beat world cham­pi­ons New Zealand in Novem­ber.

Bri­tain boasts a For­mula One world cham­pion in Lewis Hamil­ton and is home to sev­eral teams in­clud­ing Re­nault, Wil­liams and McLaren which also em­ploy many for­eign staff.

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... How easy will it be to hire for­eign­ers in the fu­ture? One doesn’t know. Prob­a­bly more dif­fi­cult than now but there again the English are prag­matic,” he said.

Race horses and breed­ing stock are also re­liant on easy move­ment across bor­ders, as well as in­vestor back­ing, and the prospect of a no-deal Brexit is prov­ing harm­ful.

“I think Brexit causes uncer­tainty to peo­ple in the fi­nan­cial world,” said Ed­mond Ma­hony, chair­man of Europe’s old­est and lead­ing blood­stock sales com­pany Tat­ter­salls.

“That is bad for rac­ing be­cause lots of own­ers work in it [fi­nan­cial world] and are un­set­tled and po­ten­tially they could have de­cided not to be in­volved in the mar­ket this year.”

English train­ing great John Gos­den is down­beat about what the fu­ture holds.

“We are deal­ing with a mas­sive train wreck right now,” he told AFP.

“We need to be able to move horses around, they can’t sit and wait at a port for two to three days wait­ing for some­one to stamp their pass­port.

“I hope com­mon sense pre­vails in the end, I re­ally hope it will. If it dam­ages every­body what is the sense of it?”

Rugby is one of the sports that could be heav­ily af­fected by Brexit.

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