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Brexit Column

We’ve all heard about the potential effect leaving the European Union would have on the economy, migration and business, but what of sport? Will the sector be affected by the 23 June referendum?

Published in Sports Management 13 Jun 2016 issue 122
Read on turning pages | Download PDF of this issue

Matthew Elliott, Vote Leave chief executive

Matthew Elliott
Matthew Elliott

Four years ago our country put on the most fantastic Olympics the world has ever seen. The London Games were a reminder of just how much Britain has brought to the world when it comes to sport.

We gave the world cricket, rugby, football, golf, tennis and even bungee jumping to name just a few. It wasn’t the European Union that gave the world those things, it was us – Great Britain.

While we are a global nation, there are many ways in which the EU holds our country back from achieving our full potential. Having an open border to almost 500 million people from within the EU restricts the Football Association’s ability to introduce rules to support young British players.

As the European Court ruled in December 1995, the EU Treaties forbid “rules laid down by sporting associations under which, in matches in competitions which they organise, football clubs may field only a limited number of professional players who are nationals of other member states”.

And by imposing restrictions on non-EU countries in an attempt to control immigration, British sport effectively loses out on talent from outside the EU. Currently players from within the EU can work in Britain, but those from outside must be proven internationals to satisfy Home Office criteria for a work permit. This blatant discrimination would end if we left the EU and took back control.

No one is seriously suggesting that if we left the EU people from Britain would not be able to play sport in other countries or people from other countries would no longer be able to play sport here. British people live, work and train in countries all over the world today, like Australia and the United States, and many countries around the world have visa free access to the EU’s Schengen area without accepting the supremacy of EU law or unlimited EU migration.

But what would change is our ability to run our own affairs and to do so in a more open, more democratic and wider world. Let’s say yes to Europe, yes to the rest of the world, but no to the European Union.

Julien Allwood, athlete and Remain campaigner

Julien Allwood
Julien Allwood

Since representing England for the very first time at 16, sport has provided me with countless opportunities to compete in Europe.

Like any relationship, European countries have their disagreements, but one common ground which can unite people together is sport. It’s a common language which everybody speaks, provides equal exposure and most importantly creates a positive environment.

In my case it’s moulded me into the individual I have become and created unforgettable experiences.

But despite all of this, leaving the EU could put a halt to ‘sport fever’ in the UK. Every child dreams of emulating the success of stars such as David Beckham and Jessica Ennis-Hill. But with EU funding contributing £1.5m to grassroots sport in Britain, Brexit could stop these dreams becoming a reality for thousands of aspiring sport stars in Britain.

The work I do with the Dame Kelly Holmes Trust allows me to see the passion in the next generation of young people who want to follow their dreams. Walking away from Europe is too big a risk.

Let’s not forget the cost of equipment also. Membership in the EU enables us to purchase equipment at an affordable price, and for many parents this is still only feasible by the skin of their teeth. I know personally for my family; some sports were still out of their price range. Brexit could spark increases of up to 11 per cent in clothing, as they become subject to tariffs. Taking a leap into the dark by leaving the EU is not a risk worth taking for sport, our economy, or the future of our country.

Hop, skip, jump are words that have defined my life from a very young age. They’re the fundamentals to life as a triple jumper. Similarly, there are three words that sum up this debate for me and reinforce why we should remain committed to Europe: Togetherness, Stability and Solidarity.

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