It is hard to escape the Brexit debate in Ireland at the moment. The shadow of the UK's pending departure from the European Union hangs over all aspects of life on this island. Sport is no exception.
We have previously agreed the issue on various occasions in the past year or so (here, here, here, here and here). With the talks between the EU and UK ongoing, a lack of clarity as to the final outcome remains. Generally speaking, there are two broad outcomes; the UK leaves without a deal in March 2019 or a deal is agreed resulting in a transition period to the end of 2020. Given the demands on both sides it is difficult to know which outcome is more likely.
Derry City football club have a greater stake than most in the outcome of the talks n this regard. Based in County Derry, one of the six counties of Northern Ireland, the club joined the League of Ireland (in the Republic of Ireland) in 1985. Derry have since played in the league ever since from their home ground the Brandywell.
The EU status and free-travel agreement between Ireland and the UK historical meant the process of playing away games, and welcoming visiting team, was effectively seamless. This was made even easier following the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 and, in the years that followed, an absence of controls of any sort.
Things are about to change however. The UK's current position is to leave the EU, Single Market and Customs Union. Should the country exist all three it is extremely difficult to envisage how a customs border could be avoided on the island of Ireland, at least one that is managed on the Irish side, to prevent certain goods entering the European Union.
This will no doubt create a difficulty for Derry City each time they play an away football match. The club will be travelling from a non-EU country to the EU. The opposite is true of all clubs visiting the Brandywell. The logsictal problems this will create are still unknown, but is it likely the players, management and supporters will face challenges in the seasons ahead should a deal remain elusive.
If a "hard" Brexit is the outcome, the club itself may have to consider whether the benefits of League of Ireland membership continue to outweigh the costs.