V’landys vows no Vegas visa issues as NRL, clubs meet

Scott Bailey |

Clubs and the NRL have made “great progress” over Las Vegas expenses, Souths CEO Blake Solly says.
Clubs and the NRL have made “great progress” over Las Vegas expenses, Souths CEO Blake Solly says.

No travelling player should have visa issues entering the United States, Australian Rugby League Commission chairman Peter V’landys says, after a clear-the-air meeting with touring clubs ahead of the NRL season-opener in Las Vegas.

V’landys and NRL boss Andrew Abdo met with the four clubs on Thursday, amid operational and financial concerns over the trip.

Less than four weeks before leaving Australia, uncertainty reigned over which visa players should obtain to enter the United States.

Of primary concern was whether players with a criminal record would be able to enter the country using the US’s electronic system for travel authorisation, or ESTA, which is easier to procure than athletes’ or visitors’ visas.

The NRL on Thursday pledged to offer more assistance to Manly, South Sydney, the Sydney Roosters and Brisbane on the matter, but told clubs they do not foresee any issues.

A number of players travelling to Vegas have previously been charged by police, but it’s not believed any fall under the category of serious offences as outlined by US authorities. 

The was particular uncertainty over drug charges, but the lack of a conviction for Brisbane fullback Reece Walsh – who in 2021 was arrested over cocaine possession – for example, should alleviate those concerns.

“I have no doubt there will be no problems,” V’landys told AAP on Thursday. 

“From my experience from other areas where people have got them, there is nothing there I have any concern about.”

Other headaches for clubs included the potential of running at a loss of up to $400,000 for the March 2 double-header when factoring in training camps and other expenses.

There is an acceptance the Vegas trip will not be free, but the clubs want to set a precedent to ensure future bottom lines are not overly impacted.

While the NRL had previously agreed to cover only travel and accommodation expenses, AAP has been told head office and the clubs have now reached a happy medium on funding.

That has pleased the bosses of the four clubs that will feature in the season-openers at Allegiant Stadium.

“Each party has compromised and that’s what you expect in a family,” V’landys said.

“The big benefactors out of this in the long-term are the clubs, because they will get more money. 

“All we are trying to do is grow the game and grow the pie from it. And they know that. 

“There is no animosity or bad will. It’s just a matter of lack of communication, but things you can solve pretty quickly.”

Souths CEO Blake Solly.
Clubs and the NRL have made great progress over Las Vegas expenses, Souths CEO Blake Solly says. (Dan Himbrechts/AAP PHOTOS)

Clubs have also walked away happy on issues around logistics and insurance. 

Souths will be based in San Diego for training, while the Roosters and Broncos will prepare in Los Angeles.

“We made great progress at the meeting today,” Souths CEO Blake Solly said. 

“The clubs have always understood the logistical and operational challenges the NRL face. 

“Peter and Andrew gave us the help we needed around financial assistance for acclimatisation camps, medical insurance, accommodation and training venues in Las Vegas today. 

“The clubs want to now focus on making the event the success it deserves to be.”