Leeds Rhinos have accused the UK Border Agency of discriminating against rugby league players.
Angered by their inability to give new signing Weller Hauraki his debut in last Sunday’s Engage Super League opener, the Rhinos have asked their local MP, Greg Mulholland, and the Rugby Football League to investigate the hold-ups in applications for work permits and visas.
Leeds chief executive Gary Hetherington said: “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.
“The treatment of Weller Hauraki has been disgraceful. He has been waiting over two months and was denied an appearance at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium last Sunday in the opening round of Super League.
“Weller already had a work permit to play for Crusaders RL when he transferred to Leeds Rhinos in November and this required a new-work permit.
“I cannot believe that his application should take this long and, when compared to other sportsmen, there is no doubt he has suffered at the hands of bureaucracy and red tape.”
Leeds were also frustrated by red tape two years ago when new signing Greg Eastwood was initially denied a work permit and his arrival at Headingley was delayed by 12 months.
Hauraki has now received his visa and has been registered with the League ahead of Friday’s trip to Hull.
Hauraki’s old club Crusaders have also been affected by delays in processing visa applications which have left three players, Frank Winterstein, Rhys Hanbury and new signing Hep Cahill, stranded in Australia.
The UK Border Agency have yet to comment on Leeds’ criticisms.