Could Brexit kill UK volleyball?

This isn’t a place for political discourse. It’s a sports coaching blog. I’m not going to get into a debate as to whether I think it’s a good idea for the UK to leave the EU or not. What I will say, though, is I think volleyball there could take a real hit after the British voted to opt out of the European Union.

During my time coaching at the University of Exeter, and for the Devon Ladies in the National League (NVL), I worked with players from something like 25 different nationalities.Here’s the list as I can remember it:

  • France
  • Italy
  • Germany
  • Netherlands
  • Sweden
  • Bulgaria
  • Belarus
  • Taiwan
  • China
  • USA
  • Chile
  • Croatia
  • Brazil
  • Czech Republic
  • Poland
  • England
  • Malaysia
  • Greece
  • Spain
  • Ukraine
  • Lithuania
  • Japan
  • Denmark

Obviously, not all of the countries above are from the EU, but quite a few are so. I wouldn’t expect there to be much impact on the non-EU representation among students playing for university teams in BUCS. Nothing much changes for them, but UK schooling does become a little less financially attractive to EU students who can’t get local tuition rates. Also, there could be an impact on exchange programs with EU universities, though I don’t really know that mechanism (Erasmus).

Beyond the universities


Alex Porter, former England national team player and current director of volleyball at the University of Essex (which ties in with the Tendring NVL club) was asked on Facebook, “How many NVL clubs will go to the wall now through lack of players coming from Europe?

His reply was, “Most.”

I’m sure he means from Supers 8s right down to Division 3, and perhaps all the way to local leagues. Most of the players we’re talking about aren’t professional or semi-professional ones. Rather, it’s mainly about EU citizens working in England and playing volleyball on the side for the love of the sport. There is already an issue with requirements for foreign players to pay a transfer fee to be able to play in the NVL, and the Brexit decision seems to just pile on that.

I wonder if this negatively impacts Volleyball England’s funding. A big chunk of what they’ve received from above in recent years is for growing involvement in sport among young people (I think 14-24). How many of those being counted are EU citizens and thus won’t be available to be counted in the future?

It’s not just players. I know of a number of foreign-born coaches across the country as well.

I can’t speak very well to Scotland or Northern Ireland (both voted strongly in favor of staying in the EU, by the way). Volleyball in N.I. is not very strong, even by UK standards. Scotland, though, has a bit of history and has maintained a senior national team even when England was forced to drop theirs for a few years (only this year brought back). My impression is that Scottish volleyball is also quite diverse, but I don’t have direct experience as I do with England.

I don’t know, but I fear

It will be a while before we see where the results of this referendum takes the U.K. A lot of decision need to be made, and it will take time for things to settle out. My fear is in the interim a lot of good work by a number of people in the UK to try to grow the sport is disrupted by the uncertainty, and that is a very sad thought.

 

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John Forman
About the Author: John Forman
John most recently coached for an NCAA Division II women's team. That followed a stint as head coach for a women's professional team in Sweden. Prior to that he was the head coach for the University of Exeter Volleyball Club BUCS teams (roughly the UK version of the NCAA) while working toward a PhD. He previously coached in Division I of NCAA Women's Volleyball in the US, with additional experience at the Juniors club level, both coaching and managing, among numerous other volleyball adventures. Learn more on his bio page.

2 comments

  1. Oliver Wagner says:

    By leaving the EU the UK will only hinder its own students to study abroad with the help of Erasmus+. The status of the UK will most likely be changed from program to partner country. Which means, that EU students will be able to get Erasmus+ funding while coming to the UK but not vice versa.

    • John Forman John Forman says:

      That sounds like a benefit to the UK universities. They won’t lose as many players to Erasmus years. 🙂

      I actually had 2 of the players from my 2013-14 Exeter women’s team spent 2014-15 abroad – one in Spain, one in China.

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