The Brexit deal: What it means for sport and recreation

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At 11.00pm on 31 December 2020, the UK left the transition period and a new relationship between the UK and EU – the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) – came into effect. Head of Policy, Leigh Thompson summarises the agreement and what it means for the sector.

Many in the sector will be forgiven for spending Christmas and the immediate new year period focussed on the ongoing challenges posed by COVID-19. However, the agreement reached between the UK and EU on the terms of our future relationship will have long-lasting implications for many sectors, including sport and recreation.

The UK’s decision to leave both the single market and customs union and put an end to freedom of movement means that relative to membership of the EU, the new arrangements subject the movement of people, goods, services and data between the UK and EU to greater friction and many cases more burdensome requirements.

We are in the process of seeking further clarification on specific issues and will provide a more detailed briefing for members in due course but the following is a very general overview of some of the impacts of the new arrangements on our sector. Links to specific guidance are included further below for reference.

Movement of people

(Note: specific rules apply to movement between the UK and Ireland – see the links to further guidance  below)

  • UK travellers to the EU/EEA/Switzerland will be subject to new rules and possibly border checks. UK travellers must have at least 6 months remaining on their passport and it must be less than 10 years old. Non-business travel can be undertaken visa-free for up to 90 days in a 180-day period. For business travel, a work visa may be required dependent upon the nature of the activity being undertaken and any country-specific requirements in place. From 2022, UK citizens travelling to the EU will also need to apply online for pre-travel authorisation which will carry a small fee (€7).
  • From 1 January 2021, EU/EEA/Swiss nationals visiting or seeking employment in the UK will need to comply with relevant requirements in the UK’s new points-based immigration system. From an employment perspective, individuals will need to meet the necessary criteria for a work visa – for sportspersons and coaches this will typically mean gaining a Governing Body Endorsement (GBE) – and employers will need to hold a sponsor licence to hire eligible employees (if not held already).

Movement of goods and animals

  • Goods entering the EU from the UK will be subject to additional border checks. Dependent upon circumstances, the temporary movement of sporting equipment from the UK into the EU may require additional paperwork in the form of an ATA Carnet.
  • The movement of equines is subject to new rules including the need for pre-travel checks, specific documentation and transport via Border Control Posts (BCPs).


  • Data transfers from the EU to the UK will be able to continue as now under a bridging mechanism for a period up to 6 months. If after this period the EU has not assessed the UK’s data protection regime as providing adequate safeguards via an adequacy decision, organisations may need to revert to alternative mechanisms to continue the cross-border transfer of data. The UK government has already confirmed data transfers from the UK to the EU can continue as now.

EU funding programmes

  • Moving forward, the UK will no longer participate in a number of EU programmes including ERASMUS+ (which includes a specific sport chapter). Under the Withdrawal Agreement, the UK will continue to participate in ERASMUS+ projects successfully bid for under the 2014-20 financial framework. This means these projects will continue to receive funding for the full duration, including where the project runs beyond the end of the transition period.

Links to further guidance

Full Trade and Cooperation Agreement and summary document.

General guidance for the sport and recreation sector.

Guidance on visiting the EU.

Guidance on providing services to the EU/EEA/Switzerland.

Guidance on ATA Carnets.

Guidance on the movement of equines.

Guidance on the new immigration system for employers.

Guidance on the Common Travel Area between the UK, crown dependencies and Ireland.


If you have any queries about Brexit, please contact the policy team.