Celtic Crusaders, the Bridgend based side, may have had six of their players deported today after the UK Border Agency found illegalities with players’ visas, but right now they need support and unification from the rugby league world rather than being hung out to dry.
To say that everything would be peachy in their first ever Super League season would be unreasonable. They have had to build a quality side, start developing their own youngsters, try to be commercially viable and build a fanbase in an area where rugby union is a more prevalent sport. It was always going to be a gamble that paid dividends or failed miserably.
The latter would be suicidal for the game if it ever has dreams of expanding nationally. Rugby League needs to be present in all areas of the UK if the national media are to take notice of the game. People can propose that other clubs such as Halifax and Widnes would have been much safer bets to award a licence to, but Celtic have shown they are slowly working towards building a Super League side even if at face value it does not add upto much.
The six overseas players do have the right to appeal, but whether that happens will remain to be seen. The obvious benefit now though is that people can stop claiming that Celtic is a team full of Australians and Celtic can start using the large pool of Welsh talent they have.
Hopefully they will now give a few academy youngsters a chance – some of which have been catching the eye – providing the club do no try to bring in some other players from the National Leagues for the remaining games of the season. Players like Lloyd White, who has starred a couple of times this season, deserve a chance to show what they can do.
And whilst fans of the club may be disappointed by the news and all but ends the club’s hopes of a strong finish, I say keep the faith because this season has been a case of fighting a losing battle for most of the year and has been about growing the club off-the-field ready for a much better prepared and stronger 2010 season.
Members of different rugby league forums have called for them to have their licence revoked. Of what benefit will that do to the game? And what would in happen in turn? A 13-team Super League would mess up the Murrayfield Magic weekend and Widnes and Halifax do not have the time to prepare a squad for Super League.
There is an old adage that Rome wasn’t built in a day. Celtic Crusaders will not be built in a season. I say give them until the end of this licence period at least to try and improve in a Catalans fashion.