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How Brexit could affect sport in the UK

The EU referendum is due to take place on the 23rd June, and during the build up, there has been speculation on how Britain's potential exit from the EU, or 'Brexit' as it is commonly referred to, might affect the future of sport in the UK.

Brexit Flag

Although the EU currently only has a small role in sports policy in member states, it does provide limited funding to grassroots sport. In addition, the rules in areas such as free movement and broadcasting mean Brexit could have a huge effect on the sport we watch.

Below, Newitts takes a look at the effect Brexit could have on UK sport. For each point, we've outlined the arguments for and against Britain leaving the EU.

Pricing increase

Sport and Recreation Alliance's Chief Executive Emma Boggis, has made comments over the potential price increase of sportswear and equipment if Britain leaves the EU. The UK imports a lot of sports clothing and equipment from abroad, therefore we could see tariffs added to EU goods exported to the UK, which would increase the cost of sportswear and sports equipment in the future. This in turn could have a negative effect on participation levels in sport and the ability to actually get people out on the field.

Alternatively, if we left the EU, Britain would be free to create trade deals with other countries, but there is a question mark against how readily available Sports Equipment retailers are in other areas of the world, but there's one clear way we can find this out.


In the event of Brexit, funding in Britain could be affected. The UK government spends around £350 million every year on sports development through UK sport and some of this money comes directly from the EU. In addition, universities, sporting bodies and national governing bodies can all apply for EU structural funding. Organisations currently use funding to drive projects and participation in deprived areas of the UK that may be lacking in opportunity. Although the grants are not exclusive to the EU, it is predicted that states that are part of the EU will more than likely get preference over those that are not.
At present, there isn’t any suggestion that this funding could be jeopardised if the UK was to vote exit on the 23 June, and those in support of Brexit would argue that leaving the EU will give us the opportunity to create our own sports initiatives using the cash saved from EU expenditure.

Science & Technology

Research from journal Nature has revealed that almost three quarters of scientists asked, would rather stick with the EU than leave it. The reason is due to many top-class researchers being sourced from around the EU, some of which come to the UK funded by EU grants. Scientists are currently very active in the progression of health and recovery, fitness, injury, clothing and equipment and performance in sport. If the level of research into sports-related areas was to diminish, it would directly affect the type of sports we could play right down to grass roots level.

In the event of Brexit, the positives would be that Britain would then be free to source some of the world's leading scientists from other parts of the world outside the EU. In addition, much like the positives for funding, many extra funds would be freed to put back into scientific research where it was required.

British Football

It has been widely speculated by experts and leading figures in the game that British football could be radically changed if the UK voted to leave the EU. Football agent Rachel Anderson told the BBC that if Britain left the EU more than half the Premier League would need work permits. Clubs such as Aston Vila, Newcastle United and Watford would currently face losing 11 players from their squads, with only 23 of the 180 non-British EU players meeting the criteria for work permits. West Ham vice-chairman Karen Brady, the face of the Britain Stronger in Europe campaign, has already written to club bosses throughout the UK warning them a vote to leave would have "devastating consequences".

On the plus side, Brexit could force clubs to concentrate on home-grown talent. It could also lower freedom of movement restrictions on the rest of the world thereby broadening the talent pool as opposed to reducing it. Privately, the league and the Football Association believe it is almost impossible to know what the situation regarding overseas players would be if the UK votes to leave, but everybody agrees that British football would be in for a period of flux as new rules were decided and clubs rebalanced their squads.

What are your thoughts on Britain potentially leaving the EU? We'd love to hear from you below.

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