25 Oct

At the beginning of 2020 ECB advised counties Kolpak players they will no longer be able to participate in English domestic cricket as non-overseas players, and must instead be registered as overseas players in a post-European Union Britain from 2021 onwards.

Since 2004, cricketers from EU Association Agreement countries – mainly South Africa, but also Zimbabwe and several Caribbean nations – have been able to take advantage of their right to work in EU countries and ply their trade in county cricket.

The Kolpak rule – created when the European Court of Justice found the Cotonou Agreement meant Slovak handball player Maros Kolpak should not count as a non-EU player in the German handball league – allows players to sign contracts with English counties without having to be fielded as overseas players.

ECB guidance issued to the 18 first-class counties stated Kolpak cricketers will no longer be classed as local players after “the end of the government transition period” – i.e. December 31 2020.

Counties had hoped that players on existing Kolpak deals would be able to continue under the same arrangement for the duration of their contracts. On the same day Britain entered its transition period from the EU, Durham and Somerset confirmed the respective signings of former South Africa T20 captain Farhaan Behardien and veteran seamer Vernon Philander – both on two-year Kolpak contracts, but both will be considered overseas signings in their second year, despite their deals being agreed as domestic players.

Currently, 17 South African Kolpaks hold 2020 contracts, as well as others from elsewhere – former West Indies bowlers Miguel Cummins (Middlesex) and Ravi Rampaul (Derbyshire), and Zimbabwean Blessing Muzarabani (Northamptonshire) among them.

The issue has proved divisive both domestically – with players accused of depriving up-and-coming English talent of places in county sides – and in South Africa.

To be eligible for a Kolpak contract, players must forego their right to represent their country, a factor cited by many for England’s dominance in last winter’s Test series win over a substandard South African side.

A myriad of factors lie behind South Africa’s cricketing exodus, but most lead back to issues of finance – exacerbated by the weakness of the rand, South Africa’s currency – and the sense that the governmentally-mandated transformation system, capping the number of white players the Proteas can pick, has reduced opportunities.

One of the Kolpak casualties is former South Africa bowler Wayne Parnell (pictured) will not be returning to Worcestershire in 2021, club chairman Fanos Hira has confirmed.

The 31-year-old signed a three-year Kolpak deal with the county at the end of the 2018 season, having spent a period of that campaign as an overseas player at New Road. However, he didn't feature in the shortened summer of 2020.

Players with settled or pre-settled status in the UK through EU citizenship will be able to continue playing as locals, but others will either have to sign as overseas players or leave their clubs.

“Wayne Parnell was signed as a Kolpak player, effectively a domestic player, and he will not be playing for us next year,” Hira explained during an online forum with members.

John Stephenson


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