Grimsby Town have accepted a suspended fine of around £4,800 for breaches of coronavirus rules after an investigation by the EFL.
It is believed that Grimsby are the first club in the country to be sanctioned for breaking the English Football League (EFL) COVID-19 rules.
The investigation looked into Grimsby’s postponed the matches against Cheltenham, Bradford and Hull in September last year after midfielder Curran tested positive for COVID-19 and the entire squad was placed into self-isolation at the time, according to the BBC.
Bradford City director of communications Ryan Sparks hit out at Grimsby and was “utterly staggered” to find out about the potential postponement a week early, via the Mariners’ chairman Philip Day speaking on Radio Humberside.
Fine suspended but costs will have to be paid apparently. No points deduction
— John Tondeur (@JohnTondeur) January 12, 2021
The investigation found that only two players needed to go into self-isolation after coming into close contact with Jock Curran who had tested positive for COVID-19.
The investigator found that if protocol had been properly observed, only two players should have been affected, so the fixtures could have been fulfilled.
Players are also understood to have been allowed to congregate in communal areas, as well as being involved in car sharing.
The club failed to undertake an adequate risk assessment by a suitable specialist before reopening the kitchen at their training ground, while former manager Ian Holloway is understood have told investigators that he played darts with players, claiming it to be a training ground tool.
In addition to the fine, Grimsby are also facing other costs, including an EFL bill of £13,000. This is believed to be the cost of the investigation, and reasonable costs incurred by the three teams they were meant to play before postponing the games.
Christine Wilson, Chief Superintendent at Humberside Police, said: “We were recently made aware of suspected COVID-related breaches by Grimsby Town FC.
“The English Football League (EFL) began an investigation into the reported breaches and announced this week that Grimsby Town were found to have breached Covid regulations and were fined just under £5,000 and are liable for the investigation costs of £13,000.
“As the matter has now been appropriately dealt with there is no further requirement for any police action.
“We take all reports COVID regulations breaches seriously and we are working closely with the Sports Ground Advisory Group to support Grimsby Town FC in ensuring COVID regulations can be safely adhered to.”
An EFL spokesman said: “The investigation process regarding the circumstances that caused a series of EFL match postponements earlier in the 2020/21 season is now reaching a conclusion and the proposed decisions have been shared with those clubs who were unable to fulfil their fixtures.
“In accordance with EFL Regulations, it has been agreed that these decisions will not be published more widely than to all member clubs as we seek to highlight throughout the competition the consequences of breaches in COVID-19 protocols so it can assist in driving compliance moving forwards.
“As we continue to reiterate, adherence to the matchday and non-matchday protocols by clubs is the single biggest way we can collectively mitigate against the spread of the virus and ensure the health and well-being of managers, players and others associated with the staging of professional football matches.”
“Quite honestly this should not have happened,” chairman Philip Day told BBC Radio Humberside.
A statement from the football club said: “Grimsby Town have accepted the Agreed Decision of the EFL relating to the postponement of three matches earlier in the season.
“The penalty is a fine of £4,800 suspended until June 30, 2021 and not to be implemented if no further breach of COVID Protocols. The club are also to pay the EFL costs. Reference is made to paying reasonable expenses incurred by opposition but there were none.
“Prior to the return to training the club prepared protocols which were approved by the EFL. Players and training ground staff (the only personnel allowed to be at the training ground under EFL Protocols) were given a half day training on the protocols and the necessity to comply with them at all times.
“Regrettably there were breaches of these protocols which meant that when one player who had had contact with others had a positive test this required all the players to self-isolate.
“The board accepts that ultimately it is responsible for the actions and conduct of players and staff and so accepted the EFL Agreed Decision.”