A dramatic diplomatic intervention by MP Ian Murray helped save the deal which took Japanese player Ryotaro Meshino to Hearts before the transfer window shut in Scotland.
The Labour MP for Edinburgh South had to cut through red tape to ensure Meshino got the visa which allowed the Manchester City player to move to Edinburgh on loan.
Murray wrote to Paul Madden, Britain’s ambassador to Japan, to explain that the player had sent his passport to Manila, the Home Office’s UK Visas and Immigrations regional hub, and, with time ticking down to the 2 September transfer deadline, it was still there, despite assurances otherwise.
Hearts had applied for a Tier 5 sporting visa, allowing those with a special talent to work for up to 12 months. They paid for priority service in a bid to ensure the signing beat the deadline. The visa was initially sanctioned by an SFA panel but Hearts fans were almost robbed of seeing Meshino in maroon. Shortly before the transfer window shut in Scotland, the player was still in Osaka. His agent was telling Hearts that if the passport problem could not be overcome, he would have no option but to find another club to take him on loan in a country where the window was still open.
“I was happy to help,” Murray said. “The hostile environment the Home Office has created is impenetrable. The club paid for a service they did not get.”
Meshino, who is interviewed exclusively in Saturday’s Scotsman, was considering a move to the Netherlands but was convinced to come to Hearts by manager Craig Levein and his assistant Austin MacPhee.
“I went to visit three teams in Holland as well,” Meshino said. “Austin and Craig were big factors in coming here. I had a good feeling about the club.”