Sun, Dec 09, 2018 - Page 11 News List

Sports world wary of Brexit troubles

AFP, LONDON

With the fate of Brexit shrouded in uncertainty, Britain’s sporting world is increasingly concerned about the impact for players, fans and investors.

Restrictions on immigration from the EU is a particular issue for soccer, although some see this as a positive for British players.

Access to top European talent is particularly important for the Premier League.

The league earlier said it has had “positive discussions with government about the importance of access to European players for our clubs, and the many cultural and economic benefits a globally popular Premier League brings to the UK.”

However, just like in Britain as a whole, soccer team owners are divided on the pros and cons.

Steve Lansdown, the billionaire owner of second-tier side Bristol City, was one of the most high-profile business figures to support exiting the EU and believes soccer could benefit.

“Fewer people from abroad will come in,” he said. “Clubs will be more selective and the prospective players from abroad will have to pass a test. It will give more opportunity to English players to come through.”

Burnley chairman Phil Garlick has said that Brexit could be “hugely damaging” to English soccer and supports a second referendum.

Although less reliant on foreign players, rugby is also following the political wrangling closely because of the potential implications for European tournaments.

The first major test is to come on March 29, the day Britain is due to exit the EU.

It is also the day when European club rugby’s quarter-finals get under way, which could mean travel chaos for teams and supporters alike.

Rugby Players Ireland CEO Simon Keogh said that Brexit could prove costly to the Irish Rugby Football Union or for Ulster players such as Ireland captain Rory Best.

“They are paid in sterling, but that and their bonuses, which are negotiated in euros, will be affected if sterling spikes,” Keogh said. “This more than the travel issue is potentially more volatile. It isn’t that the boys are too motivated by the money, but they still have to pay their mortgages.”

A negative impact on incomes would be particularly unwelcome for Irish players at the moment.

Irish rugby is experiencing an annus mirabilis with Irish province Leinster the current European champions, while the national side swept the Six Nations Grand Slam and last month beat world champions New Zealand.

Britain boasts a Formula One world champion in Lewis Hamilton and is home to several teams, including Renault, Williams and McLaren, which employ many foreign staff.

Renault executive director Marcin Budkowski said there could be a rocky road ahead.

“Potentially, yes, it could be a problem,” he said. “How easy will it be to hire foreigners in the future? One doesn’t know. Probably more difficult than now, but there again the English are pragmatic.”

Race horses and breeding stock are also reliant on easy movement across borders, as well as investor backing, and the prospect of a no-deal Brexit is proving harmful.

“I think Brexit causes uncertainty to people in the financial world,” said Edmond Mahony, chairman of Europe’s oldest and leading bloodstock sales company Tattersalls.

English training great John Gosden is downbeat about the future.

“We are dealing with a massive train wreck right now,” he said. “We need to be able to move horses around — they can’t sit and wait at a port for two to three days waiting for someone to stamp their passport.”

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