Collingwood has been hit with an effective $25,000 fine from the AFL after senior coach Nathan Buckley and assistant coach Brenton Sanderson broke coronavirus protocols by playing a tennis match with people outside their club contacts.
- In a joint statement, Buckley and Sanderson said it was only after the game that it became “crystal clear” they had broken the rules
- The pair said they wanted to pay the fine themselves to take full responsibility for their actions
- The club vowed to “be better” in light of the sacrifices being made to keep the competition running
In a statement, the AFL said the Magpies reported the breach of the return-to-play protocols to the league on Saturday after Buckley and Sanderson played tennis on Friday with “two people from outside of the approved club people”.
Australian Fed Cup captain and former world number eight, Alicia Molik, is reportedly one of the people who played tennis with Buckley and Sanderson.
“Both Buckley and Sanderson immediately reported the inadvertent breach to Collingwood officials when they realised they didn’t have the appropriate approval to partake in the activity,” the statement said.
AFL general counsel Andrew Dillon said the league appreciated Collingwood’s self-reporting of the breach and had sanctioned them $50,000, half of which would be suspended.
“We note that tennis is an approved exercise activity however approved participants are limited to approved club staff, players, household members and immediate family,” he said.
“Notwithstanding the inadvertent nature of this breach, it doesn’t excuse the responsibility to abide by the protocols.”
Buckley and Sanderson ask to pay fine
In a separate statement, Collingwood said Buckley and Sanderson had accepted responsibility for their actions and had asked to personally pay the effective $25,000 fine themselves.
“At the time, we believed we had followed and adhered to the protocols as required but after returning to the hotel and readdressing the circumstances it became crystal clear that we had breached the current AFL protocols,” the pair were quoted as saying.
“The competition is asking its constituents to make great sacrifices for the show to go on and we have all accepted these for the long-term future of the industry and the privilege of participating within it.”
The club’s chief executive Mark Anderson said the breach was a “very disappointing reminder” of the vigilance required to keep the competition running.
“Our game has been granted the right to continue to play by governments around the country,” he said.
“In exchange for that right, we simply must do all that we can to protect the health of our players, staff and the communities in which we are living and playing.
“As a club, we apologise, vow to be better and fully accept the penalty.”
Collingwood president Eddie McGuire has not made a public statement about the sanction handed to the club.
But he told Fox Footy on Friday night — when speaking after the AFL had earlier penalised the Hawks, Blues, Kangaroos and Tigers — fines should be handed out to individuals found to have breached the league’s COVID-19 protocols.
“I think the people who breach the protocols should be fined personally, to be honest,” McGuire said.
“You can get to the clubs in due course, I think the AFL’s set it out. But I think it’s got to be a personal fine.”