The controversial Kolpak loophole is to be closed, but the counties might not be as affected as we suppose.
Along with seemingly constant rain and the tight Championship finish, the 2008 county season will be remembered for the Kolpak conundrum. The issue of overseas players plying their trade as domestic performers has been around for a while, but the apparent increase in numbers has really grabbed the attention this season.
Pundits and fans have been quick to denounce the influx of players from abroad, claiming the signings to be a short-sighted temporary measure that restricts the development of home-grown players.
However, the loophole in European employment legislation that allows foreign players to bypass the county overseas quota is apparently to be closed, meaning a possible 60% reduction in non-England qualified players in 2010.
Will this have as much of an impact on the counties as we are led to believe? Many claim that Kolpak players deny mediocre journeymen county players first team opportunities rather than youngsters and there are some interesting statistics that support this case.
Leicestershire are often held up as the principal Kolpak culprits, but the Grace Road club this week revealed that they played more English qualified players under the age of 25 than any other county.
South Africans Dillon du Preez, Garnett Kruger, Claude Henderson, Jacques du Toit and HD Ackerman epitomise the worth of the Kolpak ruling, but Leicestershire have still managed to field 5.27 under 25 Englishman per championship match.
Joshua Cobb leads the way. The stylish stroke maker turned 18 last month and with a first class average of 52.62 from eight matches is rightly presented as evidence of the Foxes’ commitment to a youth policy.
Leicestershire have suffered a disappointing campaign but might actually reap the benefits of planning ahead, as the ECB is set to offer incentives for counties who pick domestic players under 25. Kent, who used only one such player all season, might need to recruit some home-grown youth.
Those who defend Kolpak signings cite the experience and knowledge overseas players bring and it is indeed a mistake to view these players merely as ‘has beens’; Northamptonshire played only 1.07 under 25 Englishmen in the championship this term, but few would argue that Nicky Boje, Andrew Hall and Lance Klusener’s contributions have been anything but positive, despite their best years being behind them.
The proliferation of South African Kolpakkers suggests this avenue of recruitment has been more damaging to the Protea system than ours and we should indeed be grateful that the arrangement has been a one-way street.
Written by Philip Oliver, a sports writer who blogs about cricket betting.