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World Sports Advocate
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Volume: 16 Issue: 2
(February 2018)

Keywords:
uk inquiry launched free movement sportspeople post-brexit uk parliament launched inquiry 31 january 2018 entitled ‘brexit movement people fields

Jurisdictions:
UK EU England Scotland Europe

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UK inquiry launched into the free movement of sportspeople post-Brexit

The UK Parliament launched an inquiry on 31 January 2018 entitled ‘Brexit: movement of people in the fields of sport and culture’ (the ‘Inquiry’), which is intended to examine possible future arrangements for the movement of people between the UK and EU within the fields of sport and culture and consider the potential impact each arrangement could have. The Inquiry has been launched amid concern from commentators within the sports industry that tighter restrictions on the movement of workers in and out of the UK could detrimentally impact UK sport. “It is unsurprising that Parliament is looking into the potential impact of Brexit on the movement of people in these sectors,” said Trevor Watkins, Partner at Pinsent Masons. “On present indications the immigration system post-Brexit is likely to be more stringent, and as that would preclude up and coming stars, it could impact the value and attractiveness of UK competitions as it could be seen as ‘downgrading’ quality by brands and overseas viewers.”

In its announcement of the Inquiry, the UK House of Lords’ EU Home Affairs Sub-Committee notes the immediate impact that taking away freedom of movement from EU/European Economic Area (‘EEA’) nationals could have on sportspeople currently working in the UK. Referencing research carried out by the BBC, the Sub-Committee states that without freedom of movement, 332 players in the English Premier League, the EFL Championship and the Scottish Premier League would not meet the requirements currently in place for non-EU/EEA nationals, who without freedom of movement must be sponsored by a relevant governing body or obtain an endorsement that the applicant is a recognised or emerging leader in their field to be eligible to work in the UK. “Brexit is likely to cause significant upheaval to the UK sports sector,” comment Luca Ferrari and Jamal Saleh, of Withers Worldwide. “Although sport has not thus far been an explicit focus of the discussions, other sectors which rely on talent have suggested that a unique category of workers should be created which would allow fewer visa criteria or even permit free movement, so one may assume that this could also apply to the sports sector.”

“Any significant restrictions on freedom of movement are unlikely to affect elite EU/EEA players as they would still likely be granted a work permit to enter the UK, but it would affect younger and/or less experienced players who do not attract high transfer fees or wages,” adds Tiran Gunawardena, Associate at Mills & Reeve. “Those players are likely going to have to ply their trade elsewhere in the EU after Brexit. The potential impact of losing the so-called ‘Article 19 exception’ has been widely discussed. This is a provision in the FIFA Regulations that allows EU nationals within the EU or the EEA to move between the ages of 16 and 18. If the UK is neither a member of the EU or EEA, it would not have the advantage of bringing in talented young players at the age of 16. Premier League clubs will likely lose those talents to the likes of La Liga and the other European leagues. The Premier League will certainly not be happy with that, but conversely the FA might well be! The FA may see increased restrictions on freedom of movement as a benefit in its goal of increasing opportunities for young English players. That competing dynamic will be interesting to follow.”

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