#NewsBytesExplainer: All you need to know about Kolpak rule
In a recent interview, the newly appointed director of Cricket South Africa Graeme Smith welcomed any former Kolpak player who wishes to rejoin the Proteas camp. His statement comes at a time when the nation is struggling to resurrect from lean patch, especially in Test cricket. Over the years, several cricketers have signed Kolpak deals. Let us understand the significance of Kolpak rule.
Citizens of European Union (EU) countries are allowed to work in any other EU country. However, under the Kolpak rule, the citizens of countries that are part of EU Association Agreements, also have the same right. European Union Association Agreements is a free trade treaty between EU and other countries, which aims at maintaining a framework for co-operation between them.
Players from countries that deal with EU can play cricket in any EU country. This allows the players to sign hefty contracts with English county sides without getting stamped as a foreigner. South Africa, along with quite a few nations are a part of a deal called the Cotonou Agreement with the EU. The players of these nations are eligible for Kolpak deals too.
In 2000, a Slovak handball player Maros Kolpak was released from his club in Germany even after being a legal German resident. However, Slovakia was not an EU member. The German Handball Association had a rule which prohibited them from fielding over two non-EU citizens. This lead to Marcos appealing to European Court of Justice. The court ruled in his favor, removing the restrictions.
In order to sign a Kolpak deal, a player should have a valid work permit of four years in the UK. He must have played a certain number of international games. Kolpak deal binds such players to forgo their central contract for that period. For representing the England national team, a player has to represent an English County team for at least seven years.
In 2016, Cricket South Africa announced that a maximum of five white players can be picked in the playing XI. This resulted in a mass exodus of players from the Proteas cricket team. In the last few years, a number of marquee players including Kyle Abbott, Duanne Olivier and Morne Morkel have left the South African Test squad to play in English County.
South Africa's domestic cricket is frail as compared to that of England. The English county championship lure the players with lucrative deals. Also, the advent of quite a few T20 leagues across the globe has emanated new avenues for players. Another important factor is lack of opportunities. With the South African quota system coming into effect, the graph has plunged further.
With the UK formally leaving European Union (Brexit) in January this year, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) has advised counties to terminate the Kolpak registrations by the end of 2020 season. This means the players of EU countries will be registered as 'overseas' next season onwards. Reportedly, there are 17 South African players under Kolpak contracts for the 2020 season.