New balls please? Tennis post-Brexit
As with so much of our law and policy in the aftermath of the referendum, little is known with any certainty.
Presently, non-EEA sports stars can visit the UK for tournaments under a time-limited “sports visitor” visa. Australia, so often cited by pro-Leave campaigners as the model of immigration control, operates a restrictive points-based immigration system and yet still welcomes hundreds of foreign players to the Australian open in Melbourne every January. On that basis, it seems unlikely that post-Brexit, we will see any stark changes made to the sports visitor visa regime. But if the UK chooses to impose visa requirements on certain EU member states, the sports visitor visa regime will inevitably become a more administratively burdensome process.
Of wider import for British tennis is the effect that Brexit will have on the coaching of domestic talent. Andy Murray, Laura Robson and Heather Watson are all coached by a diverse range of non-British coaches (hailing from South America to Eastern Europe). Once the UK leaves the EU, it will be free of the EU’s fundamental pillar of prohibiting discrimination on the grounds of nationality. On that basis, the UK would be free to subject players from, say, the Czech Republic, Slovakia or Croatia to immigration control, depriving them of their present ability to come to the UK to play tennis without needing a visa.
With some Brexit campaigners having said they wish to reduce immigration to the tens of thousands, it will take some very effective lobbying from the UK tennis establishment to persuade the government that foreign tennis coaches should rank above or alongside nurses, doctors and engineers coming to fill shortage occupations in the UK.