Speedway: Visa woes delay debut of Aussie star

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Edinburgh MONARCHS’ new star signing Sam Masters could miss the start of the new speedway season at Armadale in two weeks’ time after being refused a visa to ride in the UK following a change in government legislation at the end of last year.

Masters has already lodged an appeal with the UK embassy in Australia but this could take anything up to a month to be heard, and it seems almost certain that the rider will be absent from Friday’s press launch at the Cairn Hotel, Bathgate.

Monarchs chairman Alex Harkess admits it’s a tense time for the Capital outfit, saying: “Sam is our big signing and I have no idea exactly how long it will take for his appeal to be considered. We are simply playing it by ear.

“It’s really down to a technicality because of the change of legislation which came into effect last year. It’s just a pity that nobody bothered to tell anybody about it. Sam has done nothing wrong and all the relevant forms have been filled in correctly, but it’s made things a bit awkward for Sam.”

Harkess revealed the wrangle revolves around the expiry of Masters’ previous visa, which was organised for him by his former club Somerset Rebels. “If you let a previous visa expire you cannot apply for a new one until a certain period of time has elapsed,” said Harkess. ”Sam wasn’t an Edinburgh rider last season and his visa expired on November 30. We didn’t know he would even be in our team then.

Harkess says this wrangle could easily have been avoided. “It’s just a pity that Somerset applied for just a one-year licence for him, they could easily have applied for a three year one, it doesn’t cost any more to do that,” he said.

“Matthew Wethers and Micky Dyer are already here because Edinburgh applied for three-year visas for them and it’s something we always do if we are signing any new Australian rider. We are desperately hoping Sam’s appeal will be heard within days, but he is just another number in the queue at the embassy.

“If he misses our opening challenge matches then that’s not so bad, but we wouldn’t be at all keen if he isn’t across for our league cup campaign which begins next month.”