With the impending brexit vote theblitzdefence has been looking at the impacts of brexit on rugby. The first of the two part series looked at the implications of brexit on the on-field aspects of the game, while this article focuses on the potential ramifications for rugby supporters.
We look at 5 key aspects of a brexit that would impact the rugby fan; flights, spectator safety, strength of the pound, health arrangements and duty free.
What’s at stake?
Rugby supporters often use air travel when they follow their team, whether this is during the 6 Nations, the Pro12 or during a European competition. We have become used to a network of cheap flights across the UK and the rest of Europe, but how would a brexit vote effect the availability and price of these flights?
The remain camp claim that leaving the EU will result in more expensive flights for supporters. The reason for this is that it was the EU which was at the forefront of removing the old restrictions on flights and opened up competition between routes across the EU.
By leaving the EU, the UK may need to renegotiate the air service agreements which could reduce competition and increase fares.
The remain camp also point to the fact that it has been the EU which has battled to ensure that the airlines properly compensate passengers if a flight is delayed or cancelled. This may also be lost in the event of a brexit.
Brexit supporters are of the opinion that the UK will opt back in to the arrangements that provide open access across European skies, and that the UK Government can put in place separate mechanisms for compensation for delayed or cancelled flights that match those currently available.
Safety at transport hubs and stadia
What’s at stake?
A few years ago we wouldn’t have given a second thought to the issue of spectator safety at major sporting occasions, but the recent attacks outside the Stade de France during an international football game, have focused the attention on the vulnerability to terrorist attacks during major sporting events. By their very nature, large gatherings of people occur at transport hubs and stadia during sporting events and these are prime targets for terrorist activities.
The threat of terrorism is one that crosses European borders so collaboration and information sharing is a key weapon is tackling any future threats. Would a UK outside the EU umbrella be cutting itself off from these networks and therefore reducing the ability of the authorities to tackle terrorist incidents? European countries coordinate efforts in the event of an terrorist attack – would this be inhibited by a brexit?
The remain view is that the UK is not threatened by inclusion in the EU because it still has the right to check the passport of anyone entering the country. This way, any potential threats can be identified and questioned at the border.
Secondly, by being an integral part of the EU, this eases collaboration across the continent, which further reduces the chances of a terrorist incident.
One of the major concerns of the brexit proponents is the free movement of people across the continent, which they believe leads to uninhibited movement of those with nefarious motives.
Although it could be argued that this free movement is related to the Schengen agreement, of which the UK isn’t a signatory, the brexit camp are concerned that terrorists may settle in other EU countries, obtain an EU passport and then use the open movement in the EU to attack the UK.
It is the belief of the brexit supporters that the UK would still be a member of any pan-Europe networks and continue to share and coordinate anti-terrorist activities.
Strength of the pound
What’s at stake?
The strength of the pound has a couple of direct impacts for the rugby world.
Firstly, players in the UK are paid in pounds so the relative strength of the currency will be a factor in the ability to attract and hold the best players in the game. Secondly, when we travel outside the UK to follow our team we convert pounds in to another currency – usually Euros. A weaker pound will therefore make our European travels more expensive.
The remain supporters point to the fact that the pound has recently been falling against other major currencies as the polls have shown the brexit vote increasing, as an indicator of things to come if the brexit vote won.
Investment bank Goldman Sachs suggests that sterling could drop by up to 20% in the event of a brexit which would have a big impact on the UK’s competitiveness in the transfer market and the cost of travel to the continent.
As a rugby fan, we would get fewer Euros for our sterling, which would add to the cost of a trip to Ireland, France or Italy when you follow your team in Europe. If you support the Newport Gwent Dragons this is probably less of an issue.
The strength of the pound is tied up in the general economic strength of the UK and they are hard to differentiate. The brexit view is that the UK would become a stronger economic force free from EU shackles and the pound would retain its strength in the international markets.
What’s at stake?
When rugby supporters follow their team in Europe they often carry a small health insurance card which entitles them to free or reduced cost treatment in other EU countries. This will cover things such as sun burn and the side effects of too much alcohol. How would these European Health Insurance Cards (EHIC) be affected by a brexit vote?
The remain view is that we will lose the ability to use the EHIC card and have no guarantee that we will put in place an analogous system with the same benefits. The onus will then fall more on private medical insurance which is costly and time consuming to renew.
The brexit camp argue that you don’t have to be in the EU to be a part of the EHIC scheme – just look at Switzerland and Iceland. The other argument is that a lot of EU citizens come to the UK for work and pleasure, so it is in the interests of the other nations of the EU to ensure the UK is a member of EHIC.
Remember the days of hiding an extra bottle of red wine in your luggage to beat the import restrictions? Those days are long gone as although we have lost the “duty free” element of our purchases, what we gained in return was the ability to bring unlimited amounts of goods from other countries. We can put this in simpler terms by saying – you can now fill up your car with beer and wine in France and bring it back to the UK without feeling nervous at customs.
If we leave then the upside is we may be able to buy items duty free again but arguably the greater down side is the restrictions on the amount we can bring back will probably be brought back in to force!
That the main EU markets (for alcohol, perfume and cigarettes) will still make it easy for UK nationals to buy in bulk. There may even be an upside with the duty free element being reinstated.
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