Should footballers be allowed to change nationalities?
By Joe Harker
International football is designed for players to appear for the team of their nation, though confusion can arise when players are eligible to play for more than one country.
A recent example of this is Declan Rice, the young West Ham player who has played for the Republic of Ireland but withdrew from the squad to consider switching to England. Rice was born in London to English parents but his grandparents on his fathers side were from Cork, making him eligible to play for the Republic of Ireland.
He has made appearances for several of their youth teams and played three times for the senior team. Now the prospect of playing for England is on the table he has taken some time to consider his next move.
For Declan Rice there are no easy answers. He has played in a Republic of Ireland shirt and been passionate while doing so, but if he feels more English than Irish then this is his last chance to make the switch. Perhaps he feels an equal connection with both countries.
There are also footballing concerns behind the decision. Rice would likely start for Ireland but may not be in contention for England at the moment. If he sticks with Ireland he would be more likely to play but if he feels more English then who could blame him for wanting to go all out to appear for the country he feels a greater affinity to?
Rice is certainly not the first player to be faced with such a decision. Jack Grealish played for the Republic of Ireland at youth level but later switched allegiance to his native England. Ireland's Ciaran Clark played for England at youth level and captained the U19 and U20 sides before making the change.
Some believe the nationality issue of players like Rice is covering up problems in Irish football. Gary Connaughton writes that the Republic of Ireland has relied on English players with Irish ancestry who are not likely to play regularly for the Three Lions for too long. Players like Rice and Grealish would be great additions to the Irish team but they cover for a nation that struggles to develop its own players.
Former England player Gary Neville has argued that countries should not be trying to convince players to choose them. He believes players who have the option of playing for more than one country should have a clear idea of who they want to represent. The Sky Sports pundit accepted that players might make their decision based off better prospects of international football but said he did not approve of meetings with multiple national teams.
Players should aim to appear for their country, though they can be realistic about their chances of regular international football. Even if they feel a greater affinity to one nation they might acknowledge they are unlikely to play for them at international level. Of course they may initially pick the first nation that offers them a call up, particularly if they are still playing at youth level.