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Brexit: Political Climate In United Kingdom Could Have Negative Impact On Fijian Rugby Players

Analysis: Fijian rugby players could lose out playing in the Gallagher Premiership Rugby next season due to the political climate in the United Kingdom. And 200 players are likely to
14 Feb 2020 14:16
Brexit: Political Climate In United Kingdom Could Have Negative Impact On Fijian Rugby Players
Flying Fijians playing in the UK (from left) Nemani Nagusa, Api Ratuniyarawa and Semi Kunatani.

Analysis:

Fijian rugby players could lose out playing in the Gallagher Premiership Rugby next season due to the political climate in the United Kingdom.

And 200 players are likely to miss out as Rugby Football Union slashes second-tier Championship budget by 50 per cent in 2021

Topping the list are the newly-promoted London Irish Exiles who have Fijians Albert Tuisue, Alivereti Veitokani and Waisake Naholo as among the 10 players who come under the Kolpak* deals.

Currently, Fijians as well as South African, Samoan and Tongan (known as the Kolpak players), are able to sign for European clubs and have the same rights to work and move around Europe.

But from December 31, 2020 a number of players from South Africa, Fiji, Tonga and Samoa will lose their right to work in the United Kingdom as the 2003 EU Association Agreement will not apply at the end of the post-Brexit transition period. Others who could be affected are Harlequins’ Semi Kunatani, Vereniki Goneva and Tevita Cavubati while Api Ratuniyarawa and Taqele Naiyaravoro for the Northampton Saints.

According to Premiership Rugby, the issue of post-Brexit immigration is acute for rugby because of the high numbers of Kolpak players and the fact that the end of the transition period comes in the middle of the season.

The clubs are confident of receiving a sympathetic hearing from the Rugby Football Union, who are liaising with the Government and have written into their rulebook that Kolpak players will retain their status for the rest of this season.

Premiership clubs are seeking to increase the overseas player quota next season to offset the loss of Kolpak stars after Brexit.

A number of clubs are understood to have lobbied Premiership Rugby Limited for the right to play more foreign stars next season, and they have passed on their request to the RFU, who control player registration.

*They are known as Kolpack players thanks to the Kolpak ruling, which was handed out in 2003 after a Slovak Handball player, Maroš Kolpak, appealed against being released from his contract after he was deemed to breach a non-European Union player quota while injured.
Second-tier job cuts

An estimated 200 players, including Fijians,  face being unemployed after the RFU stunned second-tier Championship clubs by informing them they were slashing their budgets by 50 per cent next season.

A Championship club source told The Guardian that with the budget slashes coming in next term 200 players face being laid off whilst the RFU have also been accused of ‘ring-fencing’ the Premiership.

The 12 Championship clubs, which vary hugely in budget and size from the likes of Newcastle Falcons, which includes Fijian Nemani Nagusa – set to make an immediate return to the elite – to Hartpury College, were told of the cuts at a meeting on Tuesday with RFU chief executive Bill Sweeney and director of performance Conor O’Shea.

They told the clubs the annual funding would be reduced from £530,000 ($1,505,403) to £280,000 ($795,307 a year from July — roughly £3 million ($8.5m), a year in total.

Some Fijians playing in the Greene King IPA Championship are former Flying Fijians skipper Akapusi Qera (Hartfury), Henry Seniloli (Doncaster Knights) and Leeroy Atalifo (Jersey Reds).

Edited by Naisa Koroi

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