Kolpak loophole set to be closed

The end is nigh for the legion of Kolpak players who have used European Union employment legislation to bypass quotas on overseas players in English cricket, according to a report in today's Daily Telegraph.

The growth of Kolpaks, who mainly come from South Africa, has caused increasing concern in England. Until recently, it has been believed that there was nothing the authorities could do to restrict the numbers, but this view has now changed.

The newspaper says that the Central Council for Physical Recreation, a lobby group for sport in Britain, discovered that the agreement being used as the basis for the Kolpak ruling - the Cotonou Treaty, signed in 2000 - was in fact meant to allow free trade and not freedom of labour.

While some of the counties are believed to be prepared to challenge the ECB's change of heart, it seems likely that 2009 will be the last year where Kolpak players proliferate. The newspaper predicts that there could be a 60% fall-off in the numbers of foreign players in county cricket.

Overseas cricketers will still be present, subject to existing ECB limits, but they will have far greater restrictions placed on them and they will have to prove that they are of a high-enough standard to be able to get a work permit. Generally, this will involve them having played a certain quantity of international cricket in the previous two years.

What the review of the Kolpak legislation won't remove are the players who qualify because they have access to passports from EU countries because of parents and grandparents.

The article adds that the ECB is also set to introduce increased financial incentives for counties that field Under-25 England-qualified players from 2010.