RFL tight-lipped on Crusader transgressions

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The RFL’s curious silence in the Celtic Crusader’s affair has been broken, but only to say that they’ve nothing to say.

In a statement on Celtic Crusaders issued earlier today the RFL states that it has:

‘asked the UK Border Agency for a copy of its report into alleged discrepancies in the visa applications of six Celtic Crusaders players.’

The RFL is also apparently:

‘speaking to Celtic Crusaders about the matter and feels it would be inappropriate to pass specific comment until further details are available.’

However the RFL was at pains to point out that:

‘the awarding of visas is an issue between players and the UK Border Agency, not the RFL. For clarification, the governing body would not refuse a player’s registration if the UK Border Agency approved a player’s status and the appropriate documentation was provided.’

I’m not keen on kicking the Crusaders whilst they’re down. They need all the support they can muster right now and I certainly hope they can pull through this; the timing could hardly have been worse as they prepare to face second placed Leeds Rhinos in Newport, their proposed new home and market. It’s hardly likely to be leaving a good impression.

Yet I’m somewhat concerned by the RFL’s stance. OK, they don’t issues visas, obviously, nor do they procure them on the club’s behalf. But isn’t their role one of oversight, providing guidance to their member clubs?

There are a number of questions I’d like to have answered:

  • What guidance do the RFL give to member clubs on seeking and obtaining valid immigration visas for players?
  • When did the RFL become aware of any possible issues, who told whom and what was done about it at that stage?
  • Who alerted the UKBA to the situation?
  • Was the position known when the engage Super League licence was granted?
  • What penalties, if any, will be levied on the club?
  • Will points be refunded to those teams who lost to the Crusaders whilst ineligible players were in action?

Someone somewhere screwed-up. For the sake of transparency and public confidence in the RFL, we ought to know who, how, when and what is going to be done to prevent future errors. Who knows, other clubs’ players may be in the same position.

Their are plenty of suits in RFL central and checking that a club has submitted the correct paperwork to UKBA and received the appropriate clearances ought to be a part of the registration process.

I seem to recall VISA issues being cited for delays in a number of players arrival into Super League this season, including Francis Meli at St Helens, so this is clearly an area that needs more stringent management.