If the negotiations protect the free movement of athletes, golfers, footballers, rugby players and specialist sports personnel within the sports industry, then Scotland will continue to benefit from access to European professional sport markets and expertise. But if the negotiations between the UK and Europe, Scotland and Europe and/or Scotland and the UK do not protect the current free movement of sports personnel and expertise, then the landscape of Scottish sport is about to change.
Some 400 football players are working in the top two divisions in England and Scotland. Hearts and Inverness are but two of many Scottish Premier League teams that have significantly benefitted from work permits being issued to players from other European Union (EU) countries.
Player transfers and workers rights
Former Hearts and Scotland defender Andy Webster gave the name to the Webster ruling on the status and transfer of players established under article 17 of FIFA’s regulations. Article 17 was created by FIFA and the European Union to give professional players the same rights as other EU workers. Webster became the first footballer to invoke article 17 and released himself from his contract with Hearts in 2006. Will such rights for sports workers be protected in the negotiations involving the Scottish Government?
FIFA regulations allow EU clubs to sign 16- and 17-year-olds. Countries outside the EU are only allowed to sign players over 18. Brexit could mean the end of any influx of teenage players from the European Union who would be deemed to be homegrown players, developed in Scotland, with the clubs benefitting financially and culturally from having such players in their ranks. Scottish players may of course get more opportunities but Scottish football, although it has many aspirations, is not yet as marketable and as financially strong as the top five European football leagues. The top European clubs are not generally made up totally of home-grown players and it requires considerable financial strength to purchase such players.
In rugby the foreign player rule does not currently apply to players from EU countries that have an association agreement. Brexit will impact upon Scottish rugby players wanting to join clubs in Europe. Several members of the Scottish rugby team currently on tour in Japan play in other European countries.
More expensive players
Economic instability and slow economic growth would make it more expensive for Scottish clubs to sign European players. Scottish players could become less appealing to European teams because European football clubs are only allowed to sign three non- EU players.
Funding for Scottish sport
And what if the Brexit result leads to an independent Scotland? The arguments about Scottish sport aired during the Scottish referendum could come back into play. The degree of UK sport funding allocated to Scotland through the Barnett formula or UK Lottery funding would come under increased scrutiny. The Welsh first minister has already called for a more equitable agreement. It is unclear if Scottish sport would be protected by the no-detriment clauses that protected Scotland within the Smith agreement.
A distinct worry would be the potential of less funding being made available to sport and physical activity, for example, through the allocation to sportscotland or to grass-roots sports.
A further Brexit impact triggered by an independence referendum would be the make-up of future Great Britain Olympic teams.
Student sport and knowledge exchange
The free movement of students established under European social mobility schemes such as Erasmus could end for British students going to Europe and European students entering Scottish universities. The funding of European research projects which have promoted scientific and technological advance, collaboration and knowledge exchange between member states could exclude Scottish universities. Few dedicated sports research streams of funding are open to universities, but the recent British Council Erasmus Plus funding for sports collaboration and exchange was one of them.
'There is no aspect of public life that will be untouched by a Brexit vote that has already triggered a multitude of different avenues of negotiation at a time when stability and economic growth are the much-needed order of the day. Sport in Scotland is not immune from Brexit consequences and the material and cultural vitality of Scottish sport is threatened by the decision to leave the European Union.
Professor Grant Jarvie is chair of sport at the University of Edinburgh