CelticCrusaders_2034654One of the more recent targeting of ‘undesirable foreigners’by the UK Border Agency  has hit the Celtic Crusaders rugby league club. The UKBA has ordered six players and their families out of the country by 7th September and banned them from the UK for 10 years.

The players in question; team captain Jace Van Dijk, club record try scorer Tony Duggan, last year’s League One Player of the Year Damien Quinn, ex-Queensland State of Origin player Josh Hannay, as well as Darren Mapp and Mark Dalle Cort, are guilty of playing rugby football without the right paperwork.

It’s been alleged that the six players did not reveal their intention to play professional or semi-professional sport when applying for working holiday and student visas. This is hardly surprising given that when Quinn, Duggan and van Dijk joined the club in 2005, (the other three followed in the subsequent season) they were signing up with a brand new team, playing at an amateur level. Though ambitious, the club entered the bottom of the national rugby league pyramid, lining up against teams made up of students and tradesmen. Having been drafted in to establish Rugby League as a spectator sport in South Wales, successive promotions over the last four years has meant the these players have become victims of their own success.

photo_628851Although the players have the right to appeal the UKBA decision, they can only do so after leaving the UK. The club immediately took the step of cancelling all six contracts and made it’s position very clear via chief executive Mike Turner:

“Celtic Crusaders have co-operated fully with the UK Border Agency’s investigation and we will abide by their findings,”

Several of the players were already due to part ways with the club at the end of the season, with deals lined up both in the south of France and Australia. With only three games left, the timing of this intervention by the UKBA smacks of a cynical  opportunism in bumping the statistics.

Needless to say, with the backbone of the team banned from playing (along with a significant injury list), the Crusaders were quite franking unable to compete with Leeds Rhinos at the weekend. Glued to the bottom of the Superleague all season and recently forced to move from Bridgend’s Brewery Field to Newport’s Rodney Parade all is clearly not well. With reports of unpaid players the club is believed to be in financial difficulties, unable to attract the spectators required to sustain at the highest level. There is already ill feeling from other  RFL clubs, this latest blow at the hands of the UK Border Agency leaves the future of Rugby League in Wales very much in doubt.