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Page last updated at 14:15 GMT, Monday, 26 October 2009

ECB wins overseas player battle

By Oliver Brett

Prolific Yorkshire batsman Jacques Rudolph
Prolific Yorkshire batsman Jacques Rudolph can remain a "Kolpak" - just

New Home Office laws, created after pressure from English cricket chiefs, have dealt a massive blow to the "Kolpak" players in county cricket.

Only players who have held a valid work permit for four years will be able to continue to be employed as though they were EU citizens by counties.

That is unless they have played one Test match in the past two years or five Test matches in the past five.

The latest move is a huge victory for the England and Wales Cricket Board.

It has lobbied hard through government channels, to prevent players - usually from South Africa - freely occupying county places it believes should go to English-qualified players.

Having been frustrated by the reluctance of counties to impose any natural restriction on the foreign imports, the ECB realised early last summer it would have to seek a change in the law to stem the flow.

The so-called "Kolpak" players, already heavily down last season, are set to plummet further from their peak in 2008.

That summer, the situation reached a head when 11 players took the field in a Northants v Leicestershire match who had exploited the legal loophole established by Slovakian Maros Kolpak.


A European Court of Justice ruling in 2003 went in favour of the handball player, who was seeking work in Germany.

Kolpak's legal action allowed players from countries and regions with associate trade agreements with the European Union - such as South Africa and the West Indies - to be treated as non-overseas players.

A significant percentage of the annual ECB handout to counties is now supplied on a per capita basis for England-qualified players in each squad.

That forced Kolpak registrations to fall markedly in 2009, and - as reported by BBC Sport on Saturday - Dwayne Smith of Sussex has been forced to leave the country as a victim of the new regulations.

One player who was close to being snared was Yorkshire's prolific batsman Jacques Rudolph.

But a club spokesman told BBC Sport: "He last played Test cricket in 2006, which is recent enough for him to play as a Kolpak next season.

[Kolpaks] will be replaced by English players and we need to make sure that there is no short-term drop in quality when that happens

Dave Brooks, Sussex chief executive

"By the time 2011 starts he will have played for us for four years so as far as we are aware he can continue to play with us indefinitely."

However, the new regulation will severely limit new Kolpak candidates, and such players could in effect be a dying breed.

An ECB spokesman said: "We are proposing new regulations will be imposed next year governing the availability of Kolpak or overseas players."

Sussex's chief executive Dave Brooks has to stomach losing Smith next season unless he signs him as the permitted second overseas player - specifically allowed for Twenty20 cricket only.

And he said that in the long term, it could be "a good thing" for the English game that the Kolpaks were slowly being rooted out.

"It's unfortunate that it affects certain individuals, and Dwayne is one of those," added Brooks.

"But they will be replaced by English players and we need to make sure that there is no short-term drop in quality when that happens."

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see also
County ins & outs
19 May 10 |  Counties
Smith is forced to leave Sussex
24 Oct 09 |  Sussex
Kolpak numbers could be slashed
21 Jul 08 |  Counties
ECB will fight SA player influx
13 May 08 |  Counties
Trio successful in county appeals
30 Apr 08 |  Counties
Rhodes angry with Kolpak players
08 Apr 08 |  Worcestershire
Northants decline overseas player
15 Feb 08 |  Northants
Counties fear Kolpak
03 Mar 04 |  Cricket

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