The continuing debate of nationality in sports

Published 26 November 2014 By: Adam Lovatt


As discussed in a previous blog1, Diego Costa took advantage of the FIFA Statutes2 in choosing to represent Spain rather than Brazil in the recent World Cup. 

Article 7 of the FIFA Statutes provides that a player who ‘has lived continuously for at least five years after reaching the age of 18 on the territory of the relevant Association’ can choose to play for that national association in international football providing that they have not played an official competition match for another national state (it should be noted that Costa would not have qualified to play for Spain on any other grounds). As Costa had only played friendlies for Brazil prior to opting to choose to represent Spain, he was therefore entitled to play for a second international team.



Whilst this rule in football prevents players playing for two countries in competitive matches, the International Tennis Federation (ITF) Rules on the Davis Cup (at Clause 34)3 have until now provided that male tennis players could play for different countries in the Davis Cup provided that the player had a valid passport for the country they wished to represent, they had lived in that country for a period of 24 consecutive months at some point and that they had not represented another country for a period of 36 months immediately prior to when the player wished to represent the new nation.

This rule was being considered4 by Slovenian player Alijaz Bedene as being a route into the Great Britain Davis Cup team, despite three previous appearances for Slovenia in the same competition. However it has been recently reported5 that the ITF are changing the rules for the 2015 season, which will prevent players like Bedene from playing for more than one nation in the Davis Cup (or indeed the Fed Cup – the female equivalent of the Davis Cup). Whilst the new rule will not affect junior players, it does bring tennis more into line with football in ensuring that players cannot play for more than one country in a competitive environment.



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Adam Lovatt

Adam Lovatt

Adam is a lawyer specialising in sports law with IMG. Adam has a wide range of commercial and litigation experience from his four years as a qualified solicitor. Adam has a passion for sports law and is currently undertaking a IP Law Masters programme with the University of London. He is passionate about most sports particularly football, golf and tennis.

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