Governance responses to international agreements: The impact of the Kolpak ruling on cricket 1998-2021

Anthony May (Corresponding / Lead Author), Tom Bason

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    This article investigates the impacts of global legal rulings and political agreements on domestic sport, and charts the responses of national governing bodies to these changes. The article studies rulings and agreements that impacted on employment practices within professional sport. The impact of the 2003 Kolpak ruling and the 2000 Cotonou Agreement on the movement of sportspeople is analysed. Through the context of English county cricket, this article develops Appadurai’s conceptualisation of global flows, particularly ethnoscapes and finanscapes, to investigate how these international rulings and agreements particularly impacted South African migration into the UK. The responses of cricketing governing bodies in England and South Africa are analysed, and the response of the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) to ‘Brexit’ is also examined. Longitudinal data were collected on the migration of cricket players within English county cricket from 1998 to 2021 (n = 2,192), a period encompassing the duration of which the Kolpak ruling applied. Further data were collected regarding the financial situation of the England and Wales Cricket Board, Cricket South Africa and the domestic cricket teams. We find four distinct periods within the timeframe, influenced by international policy. Despite cricket governing bodies in the UK and South Africa setting mitigating regulations, the Kolpak ruling led South African cricketers of international standard to migrate to the UK. Ultimately, it required Brexit for cricket’s governing bodies to control the migration of sportspeople into the UK.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)511-529
    Number of pages18
    JournalInternational Journal of Sport Policy and Politics
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished (VoR) - 29 Jun 2023


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