Sixteen Adelaide Crows players have been handed a suspended one-match ban, while assistant coach Ben Hart has been stood down from coaching for six weeks, over a breach of the AFL’s coronavirus restrictions.
- The AFL said players carried out kicking drills in groups of eight
- Assistant coach Ben Hart was supervising at the time
- He will not be able to access club facilities or contact players until June 22
The players breached an AFL requirement to train in pairs while at a Barossa Valley resort last week.
The 16 players were quarantining after crossing state borders and were subsequently instructed by police to train individually.
An AFL investigation found the players had worked in pairs before separating into two larger groups of eight — one group to complete an eight-minute kicking drill, one group to complete an eight-minute running drill in pairs, before swapping.
The kicking drill was supervised by assistant coach Ben Hart.
The AFL investigation found that the breach by the players and assistant coach was inadvertent and “not done to create a competitive advantage”.
Hart’s suspension will begin today and he will not be able to access the club facilities or have contact with players until June 22.
AFL general counsel Andrew Dillon said the action taken was in accordance with current AFL rules, and that strengthened protocols were being considered before players returned to training and competition.
He said clubs would be briefed on the protocols in education sessions.
“We all have a very clear responsibility to ensure we do everything we can to stop the spread of the virus,” he said.
“We will not compromise the health and well-being of the community, and remind everyone in the industry — players, coaches, officials and staff — that they have a responsibility to adhere to the rules for the safety of everyone.”
Club accepts penalty for breaches
In a statement, the club said it “accepts the AFL’s sanctions” after “adherence to [social distancing] protocols did not occur during the delivery of certain elements” of its training program.
“The club also notes its role and the broader football industry in trying to limit the spread of the coronavirus,” it said.
Crows chief executive Andrew Fagan said the “harsh” penalty taken against Hart reflected the sort of deterrent punishment required to give the public confidence in a safe recommencement of the AFL season this year.
“The scale of that penalty is more reflective of what the penalties are going to be when we get back to playing again,” Mr Fagan told ABC Radio Adelaide.
“I think [it] will be reflective of the type of sanctions that will be in place … [to] ensure that we can get 144 games away and fly around the country, and do so in a way that protects everyone.
He stressed that Hart did not set out to break any rules and instead had made a mistake.
“I certainly do feel for Ben [Hart] — he’s a quality person, he’s a great character, he’s passionate about coaching and the game and the club … [but] a mistake was made,” he said.
“He’s flat and he’s been that way since the incident because he said didn’t mean to make a mistake, it was inadvertent … we’ll throw our arms around him and look after him.”
SA Police had been investigating the beach of social distancing requirements, but decided against applying any penalty to the club or players.
SA Police Commissioner Grant Stevens said last week that the incident would instead be dealt with “by providing advice and education”.
“My understanding was that it was what you might describe as an honest mistake. We’ll be providing advice to them,” Commissioner Stevens said on Friday.
“We also understand they’ll be seeking exemptions from the quarantine requirements that will enable them to participate in training activities within the South Australian limitations.”