Brexit, A Game of Two Halves...?


The Government has been enjoying some half time oranges (amidst a few unwanted lemons), following last December's agreement with the EU that talks could finally move on from the first so called divorce phase, to the UK’s future outside the bloc.

So before the teams emerge for the second half of this critical European grudge match, to what extent will all this have an impact on the UK sports industry?

According to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and at the point at which Article 50 was triggered last March, the industry was contributing over £35bn to the British economy and employed around 1.2 million people. 

EU/EEA nationals wishing to immigrate or move temporarily to the UK to work in the fields of sport and culture (and vice versa) currently enjoy freedom of movement, along with everyone else. 

If one focuses on football alone, over 400 European players were registered to play in the Premier League last season. This was in part facilitated  by exceptions to Fifa's Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players, allowing international transfers of youth players within the EU and other arrangements specific to the bloc. This has in particular allowed previous generations of young talent to prosper. But if the same more stringent rules for non-EU migrants had applied to EU sport professionals, many of our current crop of Premiership stars would have been forced to ply their trade elsewhere.

The Prime Minister has been abundantly clear in stating that the reduction of free movement of people is a keystone to resolving the second phase of EU negotiations. 

On one positive if perhaps optimistic view, this might encourage our top clubs to invest more in domestic players, leading to a second and long awaited World Cup triumph. 

Whilst that represents a noble long term objective, the reality is that and according to BBC research, 332 current players in the English Premier League, Championship and Scottish Premier League, would fail to meet the requirements for non-EU/EEA nationals.

Well, it appears that we are getting closer to discovering the answer as the EU Home Affairs Sub Committee will sit on 7 February, to begin hearing evidence on the point. 

It's worth noting that this exercise will extend well beyond the world of sport and encompass the wider field of culture. After all, UK Music's 2016 Diversity Strategy found that no less than 10% of the UK music industry workforce held an EU passport for a non-UK member state.

I'd suggest the Government should "give this 110%" as after all and politically speaking, this is a "must win game"  and ultimately, much like football itself, Brexit is entirely "a results business". 

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The EU Home Affairs Sub-Committee launches a new inquiry into the movement of people in the fields of sport and culture after Brexit.
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