How Will Brexit Affect UK Rugby?

by admin on June 24, 2016

BrexitEconomic uncertainty is high – but how will leaving the EU affect Rugby Players in the UK?

There’s no questioning that most aspects of British life will be affected in some way by the UK leaving the European Union. But how will leaving the EU affect UK rugby? We look at the facts.

UK Rugby Players: Freedom of Movement & the ‘Kolpak Ruling’

EU membership means accepting the freedom of movement principle, which enables sports men & women from Europe to play freely for UK squads. Rugby rules state clubs may not play more than two ‘foreign players’ in any match – however EU players are not classed as ‘foreign’ under EU free movement policy.

In 2003 an additional ‘Kolpak Ruling’ was introduced, giving citizens of countries who have agreed to the ‘European Union Association Agreements (EUUA)’ – including Samoa, Fiji and many others – the same rights as EU countries to play for UK teams.

So what does all this mean? In short, following Brexit EU law may cease to apply to the UK, meaning the RFU are free to restrict the number of EU nationals and Kolpak players under the quota which applies to any foreign player.

If UK players from EU and Kolpak countries receive the same restrictions currently placed on other foreign players they would need to:

  • Have started a 15-as-side international level rugby match once during the last 15 months for a tier one or two nation or
  • Have capped 10 times and started once in the last 15 months from other nations.

This creates a time of uncertainty for uncapped EU players like Italian props Riccardo and Derrick Appiah, whose membership could be rendered ineligible following the UK leaving the EU. In rugby 72 Kolpak players competed in the Aviva Premiership last season – meaning new regulations could drastically change the face of UK rugby.

Another element of rugby likely to be affected by the new independent status of the UK is foreign tour – changes to the freedom of movement policy could make it difficult for EU players to travel the continent.

Of course, an agreement or treaty may be settled between the UK and the EU which would counteract these problems. Sports lawyer Paul Shapiro summarises:

“The crucial point for rugby fans will be whether any agreement with the EU includes broad free movement obligations, such as that currently in place with EEA members (Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway),” he said.

“If it does, the current position regarding the movement of players between the continent and the UK will most likely continue. If, instead, an agreement is reached which includes restrictions on the movement of persons and services, the impact on rugby would be more significant.”

Rugby Players Voice Disappointment as UK Vote Leave

Meanwhile, some British rugby players have taken to social media to air their disappointment at the vote. Wales rugby star Jamie Roberts tweeted “Gutted. Should ‘politics’ be a compulsory school-taught subject or do we just leave the biased media and Farage ‘teach’ us? Uneducated vote.”
Jamie Roberts uneducated vote tweet






Former Wales rugby star and BBC pundit Jonathon Davies tweeted ‘lies’ in reference to Farages admission that claiming voting leave would result in an extra £350m for the NHS were ‘a mistake’.

Current and former England and Wales flankers James Heskell, Alex Cuthbert and Martny Williams also expressed displeasure at the result of the referendum

What do you think about the UK leaving the EU? How do you think it’ll affect the world of rugby? Leave a comment below to share your thoughts and opinions!

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