The uncertainty of Brexit is far from helpful for UK-based rugby teams looking to plan for the coming seasons, however the Gallagher Premiership clubs have been given a welcome level of stability heading into the 2019/20 campaign.
The threat of a no-deal Brexit is one that could have serious ramifications for English, Scottish and Welsh rugby, several of which RugbyPass looked into in-depth back in December, before the extension to the deadline to leave the European Union that was agreed in March.
All three nations make significant use of the Kolpak agreement, which allows freedom of work and movement within the EU for citizens of a number of non-EU countries, such as South Africa, Fiji, Samoa and Tonga.
The recent announcement by the English Cricket Board that a no-deal Brexit could remove Kolpak players from the county game has raised concerns of similar issues in rugby.
In terms of the Premiership clubs and the Rugby Football Union (RFU) regulations, the Kolpak agreement enables those players to be deemed as ‘non-foreign’, just as players owning passports from EU nations are also categorised thusly. Only two ‘foreign’ players allowed on the pitch at any one time from a single club.
The RFU regulations for the 2019/20 season will be published on August 1st and RugbyPass understands that those regulations will retain a clause from last season that stipulates that if a player’s status were to alter mid-season from ‘non-foreign’ to ‘foreign’ due to the UK leaving the EU without a deal, their statuses as ‘non-foreign’ would remain until the end of the current season.
With several clubs, such as Sale Sharks and Gloucester, having invested heavily in South African talent over the last couple of seasons, this will at least provide them with security over the eligibility of their squad until the summer of 2020.
European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR), who oversee the Heineken Champions and Challenge Cups, have the same limit on ‘foreign’ players, although in their regulations this is stated as a maximum of two ‘non-European players’.
EPCR have confirmed to RugbyPass that ‘European’ in their regulations will continue to be defined as it is in the Cotonou Agreement, which is a relationship with the EU rather than the geographical region of Europe, although UK nationals will still be considered to be ‘European’ when registering for the Champions and Challenge Cups, irrespective of a no-deal Brexit.
The UK is scheduled to leave the EU on October 31st without a deal, however if the Withdrawal Agreement is passed earlier than that, the UK would leave on the 1st of the month following its passing.
The opening round of pool matches in the Champions and Challenge Cups are due to begin on November 15th, which creates not only uncertainty for clubs and players, but also fans seeking to travel in and out of the UK.
Watch: Samoan players are in need of funds to head to the Rugby World Cup
Sign up to our mailing list here and we’ll keep you up to the minute with weekly updates from the world of rugby.