Vegas-bound NRL clubs call emergency meeting to resolve US visa issues

Julian Miller
By:
Julian Miller
23/01/2024
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NRL clubs worry about securing US visas before Vegas matches

The 2024 NRL season opened in Las Vegas appears to be plagued with problems behind the scenes. 

News Insights

  • The 2024 NRL season will kick off in Las Vegas in March.
  • Broncos, Rabbitohs, Roosters, and Sea Eagles will play in a double header at Vegas’ Allegiant Stadium.
  • A leaked email shows club concerns securing travel visas for players.
  • Teams are set to fly to Vegas in less than a month.

The 2024 NRL season is set to kick off on March 2 in Las Vegas. It now seems some of the players might not make it. Leaked emails show that the clubs going to Vegas have repeatedly asked the NRL guidance on securing US visas. To put it nicely, it seems like the NRL has been less than helpful here.  

Leaked emails reveal behind the scenes chaos

The NRL is coming to the US on March 2 for a double header at Las Vegas’ Allegiant Stadium. Sydney Roosters will face off against Brisbane Broncos, then Manly Sea Eagles will take on South Sydney Rabbitohs.  
 
This is the first time the NRL has played a league match outside of Australia or New Zealand. This is a big moment for the league, so teams are taking extra precautions to make sure things go smoothly. Unfortunately, things have not gone smoothly so far, especially when it comes to securing visas.  
 
Leaked emails show that club executives have major concerns about getting their players into the United States next month.  
 
The NRL’s official guidance on US visas informed clubs that each of their players could participate in the NRL’s Las Vegas matches with just an ESTA and not a visa.  
 
Broncos dug further into this issue. An independent party told the Brisbane club that their players may be turned away in the US if they tried to travel with just an ESTA. This was in October. Clubs immediately reached out to the NRL for guidance, but received no additional information from the league, until last Friday at least. 
 
Last Friday, the NRL informed clubs that they can either get an athlete’s visa, a visitor’s visa, or an ESTA for their players. According to the NRL, any of these options should allow Broncos, Rabbitohs, Roosters, and Sea Eagles’ players to enter the US.  
 
The clubs are not satisfied by this and have asked for an emergency meeting with the NRL and the Australian Rugby League Commission Chairman Peter V’landys. There is no word yet on whether such a meeting has or will take place. 

Visas one of many issues for Vegas-bound clubs 

Lack of guidance on how to secure visas is not the only complaint the Broncos, Rabbitohs, Roosters, and Sea Eagles have levelled at the NRL. According to the clubs themselves, they have also raised concerns about securing medical insurance, training venues in Las Vegas, and the overall cost of the NRL’s first ever showcase abroad.  
 
The four clubs are completely supportive of the NRL’s vision for the USA and the match in Las Vegas,” said Rabbitohs’ executive Blake Solly.  
 
An ambitious project of this nature is always going to have its logistical challenges, like the visa issue. Ideally, these logistical issues are solved ASAP, so we can focus solely on promoting the game and working with the NRL to ensure this event is the success it deserves to be.” 
 
Solly went on to call out Australian Rugby League Commission Chairman Peter V’landys specifically. When asked why he sought to involve V’landys, the Rabbitohs boss said “As we get closer to the match, we felt the preparation needed Peter’s energy and unique ability to ‘get things done’.” 
 
V’landys responded to the clubs’ concerns this week, saying “I understand their frustrations. However, I’m 100 percent confident all the matters will be resolved very quickly. I appreciate their strong support for the concept. We’re all on the same team promoting this. If it succeeds, it could be one of the greatest things to happen to the game.” 

NRL fans are definitely hoping V’landys and the clubs get things right before March 2. If they don't, it would be a bad mark on the league’s standing in the world. It also might mean that the 2024 season opener in Las Vegas could be the last time the league plays abroad for a while.