Board uses letter of the law June 28, 2007

ECB clamps down on Kolpaks

Cricinfo staff

Paul Harris: Kolpak in 2006 but 'dropped his county like a hot potato' to play for South Africa © Getty Images
The ECB is clamping down on the burgeoning number of Kolpak players who it believes are turning out for counties without having the correct work permits.

Ina report in today's Daily Telegraph, Simon Briggs says that some Kolpak players have been signed by counties without necessarily meeting the requirement that they have played international cricket or are of first-class standard.

A European Union ruling in 2003 made it illegal for a member of one EU state to prevent a person from another, or where that country has a trading relationship with the EU, from working in that country. This loophole has been exploited by players from the West Indies, Zimbabwe but predominantly South Africa.

Most counties have taken advantage of the ruling to bolster their squads. Some, like Northamptonshire, have exploited it to the full while only Glamorgan have not done so. Supporters of the scheme claim that it allows players to join counties and go on to qualify for England. Critics say it allows counties to fill sides with what amount to mercenaries who take the cash and run.

"With the number of recruitments we are seeing, things are in danger of swaying in the wrong direction," Ian Smith, vice-president of the Professional Cricketers' Association, told The Daily Telegraph. "The problem people are those who bypass the system, make a pile of cash, then go home."

Earlier this week Haroon Lorgat, the convener of selectors in South Africa, actually welcomed players signing Kolpak contracts with counties. It "could be to the advantage of SA cricket," he said. "English conditions provide a good training ground to any player. When someone decides to go the Kolpak route, it does not necessarily mean he is lost to South Africa. Take Paul Harris as an example. He went to England as a Kolpak player but when we selected him for our Test team last season he dropped his county like a hot potato to play for South Africa."

The ECB has tried to give cash incentives for counties not to sign so many Kolpak players, but in the view of Richard Bevan, the PCA's chief executive, the amounts are not enough to be a big enough incentive to do so.

But the paper reports that David Collier, the ECB chief executive, has written to all counties reminding them that all Kolpak players must meet the necessary criteria or they would be in breach of work permit regulations.