UK to deport six Aussie Crusaders - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

UK to deport six Aussie Crusaders

19/08/2009 07:47:42 PM Comments (0)

The future of Super League club Celtic Crusaders hangs in the balance after six Australian players - including ex-Queensland Origin centre Josh Hannay - were sensationally ordered to leave the UK over visa breaches.

And criminal charges may yet be laid on the Super League debutants after immigration officials found Hannay, Celtic captain Jace Van Dijk, Tony Duggan, Damien Quinn, ex-Brisbane Bronco Darren Mapp and Mark Dalle-Court were illegally present in the UK.

The embarrassing gaffe - labelled a "disgrace" in UK newspapers - seriously threatens Celtic's hopes of extending their existing Super League permit beyond 2011.

However, the Crusaders - coached by ex-Broncos assistant John Dixon - could also face criminal prosecution if they are found by the UK Border Agency (UKBA) to have acted illegally.

"We are still continuing to investigate any potential offences that the club may have committed," a UKBA spokesperson told English reporters.

The UKBA found that the six Australians played illegally under working holiday or student visas at various stages between 2006 and 2008 when the Crusaders were building towards their ultimately successful application for a Super League licence.

The players have until September 7 to depart, are banned from re-entering the UK for 10 years and can only appeal the decision after being deported.

Celtic - who have registered just three wins in 24 games to date - must play their remaining three regular season matches without six of their best players.

It is another blow in an already disastrous maiden season for the financially embattled Crusaders - and there is a very real chance it could get worse.

Lower league clubs who intend to apply for a Super League licence when they are next available in 2012 were coincidentally set to meet with the UK's governing body the Rugby Football League (RFL) this week - no prizes for guessing what will be the hot topic.

Established lower league clubs such as Widnes and Leigh were already seething after being overtaken by newcomers Celtic when the Crusaders were surprisingly given a three year Super League licence.

Relations will be further strained after the UKBA revealed Celtic secured promotion from the second to first division of the National League in 2007 - a key criteria to applying for a Super League licence - using players who were in the country illegally.

The RFL is awaiting reports from the Crusaders and the UKBA before making a public comment.

A UKBA statement said: "As the result of an intelligence-led investigation into possible immigration offences among players at Celtic Crusaders, we can confirm that six Australian nationals have been served with papers confirming that they are illegally present in the UK.

"We now expect these individuals to leave the country. If they refuse to do so voluntarily, we will enforce their removal.

"The players are prohibited from working in the UK with immediate effect."

Celtic immediately cancelled the contracts of the six players.

Crusaders CEO Mike Turner said the club was co-operating with the UKBA and would abide by their findings.

"We are sorry to be losing players who have made a big contribution in making Celtic Crusaders a Super League club," he said.

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