English County Cricket Clubs to field two overseas professionals from next season

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The England and Wales Cricket Board announced yesterday that county Cricket teams will be permitted to add two overseas professionals instead of just one to their playing XI in the County Championship and the domestic One Day Cup starting from next season.

English County Cricket clubs have had to field only one overseas professional since the rule was implemented in 2008, to ensure more first-team opportunities for young players eligible to play for England.

The decision was made by the ECB’s Board after a recommendation by the Performance Cricket Committee. ECB’s Performance Cricket Committee (PCC) chairperson Andrew Strauss said in a statement, “There is an important balance to be struck to ensure the need for good foreign players in county cricket and providing opportunity for nine England-qualified players in each county team.”
“There are clearly long-established benefits for our domestic players to compete against and learn from the best players from across the world in addition to providing high-quality domestic cricket for county members and fans to enjoy.”

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The change will not affect the Vitality Blast T20 competition which already allows teams to field two foreign players.

The move has been implemented mainly due to the end of Kolpak contracts. Kolpak deals have been used in English cricket since 2004, mainly for players from South Africa. However, they will not be allowed in the county game following Brexit, in line with the deal the United Kingdom secured with the European Union. Kolpak contracts are named after Slovak handball player Marius Kolpak, who won a landmark case at the European Court of Justice in 2003. They allow sportsmen from countries with associate trade agreements with the EU, such as South Africa, Zimbabwe and Caribbean nations, to be afforded the same right to free movement as EU citizens. Kolpak players are not classed as overseas players by the England and Wales Cricket Board under the terms of their contracts, but they become ineligible to represent their country at international level.