South Africa skipper Faf du Plessis said a no-deal Brexit would be beneficial for the Proteas because it would close the Kolpak route, stopping the talent drain in the process. “It’s sad for South African cricket not to have the option of their best players… But it’s been very difficult to stop,” Du Plessis said. Here’s a low-down on how Brexit can help Cricket South Africa.
What’s the Kolpak rule?
Under the European Union Association Agreements, citizen of the countries that have free trade treaties with the EU, also have the same right. The name originated from the Slovakian handball player Maros Kolpak, who won a court case to become eligible to play in the German handball league.
How does South Africa come under it?
Players from South Africa, Zimbabwe and several Caribbean countries are eligible for the Kolpak deals via the Cotonou Agreement with the EU. So a South African cricketer can move to England, an EU member till Brexit happens, and ply his trade in county cricket. However, a player must have a valid work permit for four years in the UK, or he needs to play a certain number of international matches.
Why’s there an exodus?
Since 2004, South Africa have lost dozens of cricketers, including stars like Morne Morkel and Kyle Abbott, and also exciting young talents like Simon Harmer, to Kolpak. South African cricketers are not well paid by their board compared to their English, Australian or Indian counterparts. So, a lot of them have moved away, giving up international cricket. “Obviously, from a financial point of view, Pound is stronger than Rand. So that will always be a concern for us,” du Plessis said.
Why do English counties sign Kolpak cricketers?
If a player comes through Kolpak, he is not counted as an overseas player. Only one overseas player is allowed (to take the field) per county in English first-class cricket, while two foreigners can be fielded in the NatWest Blast. The counties avail the opportunity to rope in quality players from outside the country without exhausting their overseas quotas.
How will Brexit change things?
A no-deal Brexit means, UK will no longer be part of the European Union Association Agreements and its by-products like Cotonou Agreement. So post-Brexit, the Kolpak deal might cease to exist. Then, if a South African cricketer goes to play county cricket, he will be considered an overseas player.
Why does du Plessis think it would benefit South African cricket?
Because talent drain will stop. For example, when a South African cricketer takes the Kolpak route to county cricket, he loses the right to play for his national team. Post-Brexit, even if a cricketer goes to play in the English county cricket, he will go there as an overseas professional and he can still play for South Africa. “Brexit will be one thing that will stop obviously the Kolpak players. So yes, that would benefit South African cricket tremendous amount,” du Plessis said, adding: “At the moment, we are losing our experience in International cricket. It’s sad for South African cricket not to have the option of their best players.”
Will the end of Kolpak help South African domestic cricket?
According to du Plessis, it will. “… we are also losing our experience in domestic cricket. Your top players domestically are going overseas. Your guys that get left out of the South African team, they go overseas. So you are missing out on all your best players and your talent pool is all of a sudden a lot smaller. And even like I said, the guys going there post international cricket, guys like Hashim Amla, those guys, they won’t be playing domestic cricket back home. So you lose all of that experience. Playing with Hashim Amla is the greatest learning curve that you can get. Playing with Dale Steyn, playing with AB de Villiers, all those guys… So it’s about making sure that you can bridge that gap and finding ways to do it.”
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