What is the Impact of Brexit on Sports in the United Kingdom?

Prime Minister David Cameron
Prime Minister David Cameron to step down.

On Thursday, June 23, we learned of the surprising affirmation by its citizens to remove the United Kingdom from the roll call of the European Union. This monumental vote, often called Brexit, has shaken economists and politicos around the world like a slow-motion punch to the gut, one much of the world watched hit in agonizing disbelief.

I’m not a political scientist or an economist, so I will leave the significantly more important impacts of Brexit on the global economy and political stability to others. I will instead focus on Brexit’s impact on sport. As a few of you may already know, the Ryder Cup, the biennial Europe-vs-US golf tournament, to be held in the US in the Fall, will go on despite the fact that six of the nine players of Team Europe are British.

As was explained in this nifty and swift Ryder Cup press release, “the criteria for being European in Ryder Cup terms is a geographical one (ie from countries who make up the continent of Europe) not a political or economic one (ie countries who make up the EU).”

Whew.

Great Britain balloon
Going it alone.

But in the long-term, there are potential negative consequences of Brexit, particularly on the state of sports in the United Kingdom.

  • Potential Loss of European Stars: Membership in the EU means citizens in member nations can work in any other member nation without a work permit. There is currently speculation that some 400 European players who currently have the automatic right to play soccer in England in the Premier League may have difficulty getting visas to continue their play. If that is the case in the coming years, fewer stars from the Continent may play in GB, thus begging the question, will the quality of play in British soccer gradually diminish?
  • Probable Loss of Funding: The EU has a funding arm to develop grassroots sports throughout the Union called Erasmus+, which splits some €265million across the 28 member nations in the period from 2014 to 2020. According to this article, “British organisations received around €1.3m in Erasmus+ sports funding, a significant amount at the grassroots level.”
  • Possible Loss of Opportunity to Host Premier Sporting Events: More than 500,000 visitors from former fellow EU member countries visited England during the 2012 London Olympics, who spent some 300 million in pounds. Brexit right now makes Great Britain a less attractive venue to host a European or global athletic event as visa requirements will make entry to Great Britain slower, likely encouraging athletes and tourists alike to opt for easier options. Organizers of super sporting events may re-think any plans for London.

With a loss of stars, funding and world-class sporting events, thanks to Brexit, the United Kingdom will likely have to work harder to maintain sporting excellence in the decades to come.