English journalists sent home from Ashes tour after visa fight
Tabloid reporters get a lucky break as visa-extensions are denied by Australian immigration authorities
THEY are probably the envy of the rest of British press pack covering England's disastrous Ashes tour, but three tabloid cricket journalists face being sent home from Australia after failing to get extensions to their 90-day working visas.
John Etheridge of The Sun, Dean Wilson of The Mirror and the Daily Mail's Paul Newman are set to follow players Jonathan Trott, Graeme Swann and Steven Finn back to England before the end of the one-day series and the Twenty20 internationals.
The three were the first members of the British press corps to arrive in Australia last year, when hopes of an England victory were still high. Since then they have been forced to watch as a pitiful England side was whitewashed in the Ashes Test series, and then lost the first three one-day games against Australia.
Despite the team's dire showing the three journalists have been trying to have their 90-day visas extended, and Cricket Australia has been lobbying on their behalf, but their efforts have come to naught and they have been told to leave the country.
Etheridge and Wilson will now fly home after the fourth ODI on Saturday while Newman will have to leave a few days later.
"That might sound like a lucky escape, after three months reporting on England defeats in all corners of Australia," says The Guardian, but Etheridge told the paper that "he will leave with a heavy heart". The paper puts his attitude down to a "combination of professionalism, masochism and stubborn optimism that England may win a game before the end of the tour".
The Aussie press have, unsurprisingly, seen the funny side of the situation. "The English cricket team lost the Ashes and the one-day series and now three of the country's journalists are losing their right to remain in Australia," chuckled ABC.
The Australian says the reporters are frustrated that they will not be able to finish the job they came to do, but can't help twisting the knife by pointing out that Etheridge "wanted to stay long enough to see our side beat Australia once".
There is some gallows humour at Cricinfo, which notes that seven England players plus members of the support staff will also go beyond 90 days. "They are travelling on a different visa," explains David Hopps. "Australia has yet to evict them." ·