Written by John Davidson
Photo by Chris Young
Toronto utility Blake Wallace has opened up on the club’s difficult visa issues, explaining that the Wolfpack’s overseas players were on holiday visas and had to “gamble” to re-enter the UK.
Toronto have withdrawn from the 2020 Super League season citing “a range of factors” affecting the Canadian club. The Wolfpack’s future beyond this year is now in doubt.
Toronto’s non-English players are not eligible for UK permits as they are an overseas club and not sponsored by the RFL, much like French side Catalans Dragons.
Wallace told the Rugby League Guru podcast that the Wolfpack’s Antipodean contingent faced “a bit of a gamble” of whether they would be let into England.
“Cause we’re a Canadian footy team we’ve got Canadian work permits, so we’re sweet to work in Canada,” he said.
“The UK’s a bit different, most teams can sponsor players for a sports visa. Cause we’re a Canadian company we can’t do that.
“Basically you get put a holiday visa, so basically you spend six months of the year, a calendar year, in the country and you can’t overstay that. So, with that being said, Covid hit and we came into the country at the start of the year and you start being there five, six months and you’re starting to overstay your welcome – you’ve got to get out.
“For me, I’d been there probably four months. I went to Canada and for me to go back to the UK – I would have done it but basically it’s up to the border really because they would have seen on my passport when I was last in, and they would ask how long are you here for and if I say two, three months because I’m playing footy, because of what was going on, it’s up to them to decide whether I’m allowed into the country or not.
“So if someone doesn’t understand what the Toronto Wolfpack is and what we’re trying to do then that flag it up a little bit and they can question you a little bit more and it’s a bit of a gamble of whether you’re going to get let into the country.
“It can be a bit messy at times but that’s just how it is, there’s not much we can do about it.”
Wallace said the club was unable to get an exemption from Border Control and so it’s overseas players “had no choice but to make our way back to Australia”.
The 28-year-old admits he is unsure what his future will hold, as he is unable to be loaned to another English Super League club.
“It’s kind of up in the air,” he said.
“ I can’t go on loan to another team in the UK because I don’t have a visa. I’m not too sure, I’m just taking it a day at a time.
“I know for me personally my contract is on the basis that I’m in Super League so if we kicked from Super League basically that means my contract for next year is up.”