Australia act on player drain with 'Robson rule'
European football had Bosman transfers, English cricket has Kolpak players, and now Australia has passed the Sam Robson rule. At a board meeting on Friday, Cricket Australia approved regulatory changes that will allow dual passport holders to play domestic matches in more than one country.
This has effectively freed Robson from having to choose between New South Wales and Middlesex, allowing him to represent both as England and Australia compete for his international loyalties. The player is not thought to have made any written guarantees to England that he will commit his international future to them.
It was not only Robson who had a new future opened up for him by the changes, as numerous cricketers who had given up their first-class careers in Australia to play as locals in England are once more eligible to play in the Sheffield Shield, limited overs and Big Bash League competitions.
"The Board has endorsed changes to the definition of an Overseas Player for Australian domestic competitions," a CA spokesman said. "The changes are designed to allow Australian players who have dual passports to play in more than one domestic competition. CA wants as many quality cricketers playing in its domestic competitions as possible. These changes will allow Australian players with dual passports to play first-class cricket in more than one country.
"A number of Australian-qualified cricketers currently playing in ECB competitions in particular are doing so as a local player, meaning if they play in Australia during the summer they need to do so as an overseas player to retain their ECB eligibility. However, CA's current overseas player definition prevents someone born in Australia, or holding a valid Australian passport, from qualifying to play here as an overseas player.
"Changes approved today will ensure state associations and BBL teams will be able recruit Australian players without them having to give up their eligibility to play overseas as a local player. It will remove the burden on these players to choose which domestic competition to play in."
Robson, whose mother hails from Nottingham, previously could not be chosen for New South Wales as a domestic player because although he was born in Australia he played county cricket on a British passport.
While the changes have greatly enhanced Australia's chances of being able to consider Robson in the future, England may also be able to offer him a chance to play first-class matches during the forthcoming southern summer. An outside chance to be named as a reserve opening batsman in the Ashes squad proper, Robson would be a likely choice for the England Lions squad scheduled to shadow the Test touring party over the course of the series.
Alternatively, Robson may now head home to Sydney at the conclusion of the English summer and turn out first for the Blues' Futures League team, and from there earn selection in the NSW Shield XI for the start of the season. In past seasons he has simply played club cricket while ineligible for first-class duty, but given Australia's current lack of strong batting stock Robson would need only to replicate his consistent scoring for Middlesex to quickly enter international contention.
England's national team has benefitted considerably from the lure of their professional circuit, particularly to South African players who have gone on to qualify for England. The flood of Kolpak players, who are allowed to play county cricket under European Community free labour regulations, has been reduced, however, after a ruling in 2008 enabled the Home Office to introduce a four-year work-permit qualification on players outside the EU.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here