The Leeds Rhinos have made some very strong statements in regards to the treatment of Rugby League Players by the UK Border Agency.
After winger Weller Hauraki finally had his visa granted, Leeds were obviously upset by how long the process took. He missed last weeks game against the Bradford Bulls.
This prompted Leeds Rhinos Chief Executive Gary Hetherington to claim Rugby League was unfairly targeted.
“It is our belief that Rugby League players appear to be treated differently to other professional sportsmen when applying for Work Permits and Visas and we have asked our MP to investigate on our behalf.”
Looking at this objectively, I would suggest that the UK Border Agency has every reason to take a deeper look at the visa’s it grants to Rugby League players!
After the complete debacle that saw six Celtic Crusaders players deported for applying their trade under student visa’s, not even mentioning some of the off field issues we’ve seen in recent seasons with imports getting in trouble with the law, including Paul Whatuira doing his version of the incredible Hulk one night last year, I would hope that the UK Border Agency does take a closer look at the people it lets into the UK to play football….and I don’t even live there!
Right now Willie Mason is the poster child of visa issues.
Mason, who I believe has a New Zealand passport, would have counted as an import for Hull KR with that passport. So he sat down, had a beer with the King of Tonga, and hey presto, he now has a Tongan passport.
That Tongan passport allows him and his club to get around import rules so that Mason will not count as an import.
That is a ridiculous situation for Rugby League fans to understand, so how do you this the UK Border Agency views moves like this?
Super League clubs in the past had it very easy getting players visa’s. However after a few years of ridiculous conduct by clubs, it seems as though the Border Agency has had enough.
So Hetherington can whinge all he likes, the fact is, Super League clubs are getting the treatment they deserve.