21 Apr

Cricket South Africa (CSA) director of cricket Graeme Smith has welcomed the positive impact Britain’s departure from the EU could have on domestic talent retention. “From our perspective, we want to encourage all our best players to play here domestically, and then give themselves the opportunity to be selected for the national side,” he said in a video conference. At present South African and Zimbabwean players can play in England as a result of so-called Kolpak deals which stem from the United Kingdom’s EU membership and this dispensation could end by January 2021.

Kolpak deals stem frpm a European Court of Justice ruling handed down on 8 May 2003 in favour of Maroš Kolpak, a Slovak handball player. It declared that citizens of countries which have signed European Union Association Agreements have the same right to freedom of work and movement within the EU as EU citizens. The ruling allowed citizens of around 100 nations to play cricket in any EU nation without being considered as an overseas player. The Cotonou trade agreement allows the citizens of most Caribbean and African nations to be eligible for signing Kolpak agreements, but the Home Office in the UK stipulates that a player must have a valid work permit for four years or must have a specified number of appearances in international cricket to sign a Kolpak deal. South African cricketers have been major beneficiaries down the years, signing lucrative contracts with English counties that automatically disqualify them from representing the national team In March 2004, South African cricketer Claude Henderson became the first player to sign a Kolpak agreement ending his international career.

The potential end of Kolpak deals offers South African cricket the chance for an injection of much-needed experience and talent into the domestic game that should provide more depth for the national team. Smith says that CSA will welcome back any former Kolpak players who are willing to be part of the domestic structures as the national side struggles to rebuild its ailing test team. Currently these include Essex spinner Simon Harmer, who was named one of five cricketers of the year in the 2020 edition of Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack, seamers Duane Olivier and Kyle Abbott, and batsman Rilee Rossouw. Seamer Dane Paterson, who played in two tests against England in January, became the 45th South African to take up a Kolpak deal when he signed for Nottinghamshire.

He could be one of the last depending on whether or not the UK agrees to continue to recognise the role of the ECJ. “With Kolpak coming to an end, I guess the willingness is always to have our best players in the system,” said Smith.  “It is up to the players to come back into the system and to make decisions on their careers…We don’t ever want to exclude players from being part of our system and we understand that the landscape of the world game is very different now to what it was,” Smith continued.

Brian Sturgess


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