What is Kolpak Deal in Cricket? An Easy Explanation!

Kolpak deal in Cricket has turned out to be a blessing in disguise for some cricketers who perhaps otherwise either couldn’t find a place in an international team or didn’t get paid enough. But, what exactly is the Kolpak Deal in Cricket?

Kokpak’s deal in cricket allows players from other countries to play for any EU country. Koplak’s Deal is an agreement established at the European Court of Justice regarding freedom of movement of workers who are part of the European Union (EU), has signed a treaty with the EU, or lawfully works within an EU country.

In order to truly understand the Kolpak’s deal, you perhaps need to understand why such a deal was required, how it impacts cricket and a few pros and cons of the Kolpak agreement. So, let’s understand the details further!

Who is Maroš Kolpak?

Born on 23rd March 1971 in Presov, Czechoslovakia, Maroš Kolpak was a Slovak handball goalkeeper. He played 71 times for Slovakia.

He started his club career with HT Traten Presov and over the period moved to TSV Baden Ostringen in the German 2nd Bundesliga in 1997. He played for the club’s successor SG Kronau/Ostringen (now Rhein-Neckar Löwen) from 2002 for 10 seasons.

During this period, Kolpak faced problems with the Non-EU quota rules of Deutscher Handballbund (German Handball Association) that prohibited him from playing in Germany.

This made him move to the European Court of Justice.

What is Kolpak’s Deal?

As per the German Handball Association’s rules, the member clubs were prohibited from fielding more than 2 Non-EU players.

In 2000, Kolpak’s club filled this quota of two non-EU players. Kolpak, who at that time had a German work visa, was ejected from the club as Slovakia was not a part of the EU at that time.

Kolpak moved to the German higher court against the German Handball association claiming the restrictions against his freedom of movement as a worker. On the other hand, the association claimed that this is what the rules day and they are just sticking to it.

The German higher court transferred this case to the European Court of Justice to determine whether the association agreement between Slovakia and the EU plays any legality to worker’s freedom of movement. Judge Antonio Mario La Pergola ruled in favor of Kolpak on 8th May 2003.

The Kolpak ruling declared that the citizens of countries that have an agreement with the EU cannot be treated differently than EU citizens.

This basically means that those who are lawfully working in the EU should not have any restrictions on quotas. This helped Kolpak to play another 9 seasons with his German club.

Which Countries can sign Kolpak’s Deal?

Under the Kolpak arrangement, players from the Organisation of African, Caribbean, and Pacific States (OACPS) can sign the deal and play for countries within the EU.

In June 2000, 78 ACP countries (excluding Cuba) signed the Cotonou Agreement with the EU to eradicate poverty and to the gradual integration of ACP countries into the world economy contributing to sustainable development. This agreement allowed the players from OAPCS to sign the Kolpak’s Deal.

How does the Kolpak’s Deal impact Cricket?

England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) has a proper structure of county cricket, the county Cricket clubs wanted the services of foreign players to gain a decorated status in the championships.

Before Kolpak, ECB has restricted the use of only one oversees professional. The Kolpak deal helped county clubs sign the players from OAPCS, especially from South Africa, Zimbabwe, and the Caribbean Islands.

However, to tackle the load of players signing from the Kolpak’s deal and to keep the future of domestic players alive ECB put some restrictions on Kolpak’s Deal.

Rules and Restrictions on the Kolpak’s deal enforced by ECB are as follows –

  1. A player must have a valid work permit for four years in the UK or have earned a specific number of caps in international cricket for their countries.
  2. A player can not represent his country during the length of his agreement with the county club.
  3. A player can play domestic cricket in his home country in the English offseason. The County cricket has to be the priority for the player signing Kolpak’s Deal.
  4. The players over 18 years have to play 7 years (earlier it was 4 years) of county cricket and have to secure citizenship to qualify for England Cricket team selection.
  5. The clubs putting Kolpak players in the team over English players will get £1,100 less from the ECB for county matches and £250 less for One-Day matches.
  6. A player must not have represented his country for over twelve months before signing Kolpak’s Deal. This rule was removed after South African player Jacques Rudolph signed for Yorkshire.

However, these restrictions did not stop county clubs from signing foreign players under Kolpak. In 2008, a match between Northants and Leicestershire had half the players on the field from non-EU countries.

Since 2008, ECB changed its interpretation of the Cotonou agreement from the free movement of labor to the free trades of goods and services to put the influx of the players on a leash.

Why do many players from South Africa and Zimbabwe sign Kolpak’s Deal?

In 1999, South African Cricket introduced a quota for the selection of black players in the team. This special selection system forced having a minimum of one black-African and 5 black players in international games.

By 2015 it was increased to three black-African and 3 black players. Such special conditions for the selection of players reduced the opportunity of many white players who wanted to be a part of the national team. Hence, a few of the players started moving to England to sign the Kolpak’s Deal.

Additionally, financial stability and more games are some reasons which helped players to sign the deal. With Rand (South African Currency) value weakening, their chances of earning around R 1.5 -1.7 million made it easier for them to move.

The political takeover of Zimbabwe Cricket forced Zimbabwean players to move to England to sign the Kolpak’s Deal.

List of players who signed the Kolpak’s Deal

South African International cricketer Claude Henderson was the first player to sign Kolpak’s Deal. He penned a deal with Leicestershire in 2004. He played county until his retirement in 2011.

Claude Henderson – First to sign the Kolpak Deal (Image Credit)

Soon after Henderson, Zimbabwean Legend Grant Flower, Murray Goodwin, South African All-rounder Lance Klusener and West Indian Ottis Gibson jumped the wagon. By the end of 2008, there were more than 30 Kolpak’s players in English Cricket.

Grant Flower from Zimbabwe (Image Credit)

In 2007, South Africa lost Faf du Plessis to Kolpak’s Deal. He played for Lancashire until 2010 and then made his international debut for South Africa in 2011. It didn’t stop here.

Many South African players penned lucrative deals with English County Clubs. These included Paul Harris, Jacques Rudolph, Andrew Hall, Justin Kemp, Nicky Boje, Shaun Pollock, Andre Nel, and many more.

West Indies also lost Pedro Collins, Dwayne Smith, Fidel Edwards, and Ravi Rampaul for a brief period due to Kolpak’s Deal. Wayne Parnell and Duanne Olivier (First class cricketer of the season 2017 for South Africa) were the recent South Africans who signed the Kolpak’s Deal. South Africa board has suffered the most because of the Kolpak’s Deal.

Even South Africa’s fastest ODI player to score 2000, 3000, 4000, 5000, 6000 & 7000 ODI runs, Hashim Amla, retired from international cricket to sign for Surrey under Kolpak. In 2017, Kyle Abbott announced his retirement and opted for a Kolpak deal.

Impact of Brexit on Kolpak’s Deal?

On 31st January 2020, Britain exited from the EU. This forced ECB to announce to counties that the Kolpak players no longer be registered as non-overseas players in a post-European Union Britain from 2021 onwards.

On the other hand, South Africa director of cricket Graeme Smith issued a statement saying South Africa will welcome back former Kolpak players who are willing to take a part in domestic structure.

Final Thoughts

While Kolpak’s deal helped many cricketers to keep playing cricket and financial stability, it acted as the biggest threat for their home countries like South Africa and Zimbabwe to create and maintain dominance in world cricket.

The impact of the Kolpak agreement is so much that even after ECB made it clear that Kolpak players will no longer be treated as non-international players, many are still willing to take the risk of playing in England.

With Brexit, South Africa cricket might find an opportunity to bring back these players to boost their presence in world cricket. Hope this article helped you understand the nuances of Kolpak’s deal.

Shrot Katewa

Shrot is an avid cricket fan! He has played and endorsed the sport ever since he was in School. In fact, he played as a professional cricketer represented his state team in National Indoor Cricket Championship held in Pune, India. Shrot loves the game, loves talking to other people who play the game and share his learnings with other interested individuals. He is the founder of CricketMastery.com. This website is a culmination of his desire to help others understand this wonderful Game of Cricket!

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