We have been approached by many fans asking the position regarding the Hull Seahawks import players. Mark Laing spoke eloquently and passionately about his need for more information and we have listened. While we have been open, honest and forthright in all of our many communications on the position, both videoed and written, it is evident that some fans would appreciate further clarification or indeed have missed these posts.
There isn’t a day (or night) that our ownership group has failed to discuss the position of the imports and we feel the pain. The delays experienced continue to have a notable effect on results. Some posts on social media have suggested that we never signed these players in the first place. I will leave you, the reader, to decide on the absurdity of this proposition.
The position is this: in December 2021, post Brexit, the process changed with regards import players. All employers now needed to apply for Sponsor Licences. Once granted, this entitled employers to apply for individual visas for each foreign employee. Some NIHL clubs were aware of this and obtained their licences well before we were even formed. Others did not and still do not hold licences. With Hull Seahawks Ltd being a new company we had to register the company, open a business account and obtain a UTR from HMRC. Rather than the normal days necessary to do this, delays with banks and HMRC meant that months went by before we were able to apply for the licence. We did this promptly the first day the UTR was issued. Normally the licence takes 8 weeks to be granted; we got it done in 7. On the day of issue, we immediately applied for visas. This process should take 3 weeks but there was a reported delay of one week on the part of the Home Office. In fact, eight weeks later we are still awaiting the visas.
Joe and I have called and emailed the Home Office every week to ascertain the position regarding the visas, only to be told that we will be advised once the process is complete. The Home Office refuses to be drawn on the causes of general delays and what is the expected timescale. This is a general delay incurred by all applicants, NOT JUST the Hull Seahawks. MK Lightning are in a similar position too.
We have been asked, why do other clubs seem to have a full roster of imports when we do not? That is a fair question. Foreign workers who have four year visas to stay and work in the UK and those with settled status, do not need a one year visa application (unless their 4 year visa runs out, in which case this can be fast-tracked because they are already here in the UK). Svec’s one year visa expired and Themar did not possess a UK visa, which means that both require one year visas and this is what we have applied for.
There is a shortage of foreign players in the UK with settled status or four year visas. This restricted our recruitment and for this reason the pool of players we could recruit from was limited even before our company was established. This drove us abroad to find two top class imports.
Fans have also asked as to why we cannot borrow imports from other teams especially ones in the EIHL who sit out games. As confirmed by IHUK, this is illegal. The player has to be transferred and cannot be borrowed. He then has to remain at the borrowing club for a period of 28 days before he can be transferred back. This is yet another opportunity unavailable to us.
We appreciate the humbling loyalty our fans have demonstrated in recent weeks to support the team through this turbulent period. None of our ownership group could have anticipated the problems we have encountered. With hindsight, we could be asked why we did not recruit foreign players with settled status or four year visas but I return to my above point, namely that they were already contracted or in earnest negotiations with their current clubs. We are working tirelessly to remedy the situation. Our local MPs are aware of the position and their assistance has been requested but we are uncertain how much leverage they can apply. Put simply, we are at the mercy of the Home Office. However, we are constantly seeking UK personnel to replenish our ranks, depleted by injury in what has to be the most absurd run of luck I have witnessed in the sport in 34 years.
I remain confident and optimistic that our luck will turn, and soon, but I also plea for continued patience. There is nothing more we can tell you and trust me, when we have news of the visas, you will hear us shout it from the top of Hull Minster!