The Etone Jaguars and Chairman Lawrence Grugeon have shared a statement with the Britball media following allegations made on social media last week. The accusations raised a wide array of concerns, and having taken time to digest the material shared and consult with legal advisors, the Jaguars are seeking to provide further clarification and information relating to the situation, with this first statement looking to address concerns raised around issues of finance and welfare.
The allegations were initially shared by the satirical Britball news page, Daily Britball, alongside a number of other critiques directed at other Britball programmes.
The statement shared is as follows:
CLUB STATEMENT – PART ONE OF TWO
ETONE JAGUARS AMERICAN FOOTBALL ACADEMY
Having taken the weekend to consider the unsavoury content and associated comments which were posted on the satire social media page ‘Daily Britball’ and then picked-up and carried on by ‘Gridiron Hub’, I feel that it is necessary to issue a statement to address some of the concerns raised.
I was disappointed that my name and my integrity were liberally traduced on social media in its various forms without anyone taking the time to ask me (or indeed any representative of the club) a single question about the veracity of these allegations.
I hope that the people who opted to relentlessly share memes and spurious allegations will share this statement with the same haste.
I refute any allegation of any impropriety or illegality and would welcome any of the ‘whistleblowers’ that I have seen referred to, to come and sit with me and discuss their concerns like adults over a cup of coffee – I believe that it is a far more appropriate way to discuss concerns or ask questions than by defaming me online or posting infantile ‘Spongebob Squarepants’ memes.
Having read many of the hurtful and unnecessary posts and comments, I cannot say I know many of the names or understand the reasons why people within our close-knit community would make such hurtful and unnecessary remarks.
Having worked tirelessly to establish a club from scratch within my community which has helped shape the lives and attitudes of impressionable young people, it saddens me that these spurious rumours have caused upset to the younger members of the club and now threaten our credibility within the community.
Whilst I do not expect an apology, I urge the people involved in sewing and propagating these unsavoury seeds to consider the effect that this is having on those young people and to refrain from continuing with this damaging behaviour.
I would ask the Britball community to read my response to the allegations below and consider their actions before condemning those of us that are trying to promote the game from the grass roots up on the strength of precisely zero evidence.
Whilst we all seek to hold ourselves and others to high standards to ensure the progression of the game in Britain and I fully support people being held to account for their misdeeds, facts should be properly established before libelling someone online. A spiteful few have manipulated the many in this instance.
Whilst the purpose of this statement is to clear the air (and I do not wish to make threats), I take these allegations very seriously and if unsubstantiated, damaging and defamatory posts continue to find their way into the public domain via social media, I will be forced to consider my legal options. I take the reputation that I have worked hard to establish very seriously.
Whilst I appreciate that one of the pages in question is a ‘satire’ page reporting on humorous topics, I find these claims far from humorous and they have had a profoundly negative effect on myself and those around me, not to mention the young people that I am in contact with.
I have limited this statement to the welfare and finance issues regarding the academy. I will release another statement in due course regarding the allegations about the senior team.
WELFARE & FINANCE
The following information is my response to some of the allegations made which will be backed up by evidence where appropriate:
1. Young Players Stopping at the Coaches House:
Any player staying anywhere except their home address has always;
- Been over the age of 16.
- Had the consent of the parent/parents.
- Never been alone.
- Been in exceptional circumstances to help with logistics.
All staff are DBS checked and registered with up to date coaching qualifications as attached and verified on their BAFA registration portals.
In July 2018, the club organised a trip to Vienna, Austria where myself and the welfare officer accompanied 8 players under the age of 18 on a Football residential camp over the course of a week. Are we now saying this is wrong?
I have NOT received any communication to date from BAFA regarding the welfare concerns regarding any such allegation of this nature.
The truth is this allegation comes from Mr. Lee Griffiths (former Youth HC of the Birmingham Bulls) who has a very distinct hatred of me for no other reason than we once had a disagreement in 2015 concerning my suggestions about the award of helmet decals for the Youth Team players. He was against the idea and following this disagreement told me I was no longer welcome on his staff.
This bad blood has continued throughout our team’s rivalry during the course of the 2017 & 2018 U17 Youth Contact seasons for no other reason that his best U17 player over that time-period joined my U19 team for the 2019 season which I am informed he took exception to and this continues to fuel his desire to cast a shadow over my character within our game.
Mr. Griffith’s side-line manner in games against my Jaguars has always been less than tasteful and has been witnessed and spoken about by numerous parents during that time.
In 2018 whilst playing against the Bulls at Tamworth’s home ground in Coleshill, Griffiths was flagged for running onto the field and bumping into an official whilst a Jaguars DB returned an interception for a TD.
Mr Griffith’s actions have evidently rubbed off on his own Youth players as former Bulls Youth and now assistant coach Jack Dukes thinks it is appropriate to create memes, comment on things he knows nothing about and act in the same manner as his mentor. I have never officially met or had a conversation with Mr. Dukes to this day so can come to no other conclusion than that he is just following suit to impress his former coach. I find it very disappointing and incredibly concerning that this is the example we are setting young students of the game and that adolescents are being encouraged to adopt nonsensical grudges.
2. Junior and youth players having to attend a ‘cinema night’ which they were charged £5 for.
During the 2017 & 2018 Seasons the club ran an initiative called ‘JAGS CLUB’ where players and their friends could attend a local community centre during the mid-week and either get help with their homework if required or just socialise with friends.
On occasion the club would run a movie and pizza night where a charge of £5 (to cover the pizza & ice-cream) was agreed with the players parents. At no point were players forced to attend or pay for this privilege – attendance to such events has always been optional. These events were well attended and enjoyed by all with no complaints. We have also organised annual Halloween party fundraisers, Christmas dinner and bowling parties and volunteered at numerous charitable events raising money for local charities whilst establishing the club in a good light within our own local community; as a consequence winning us two Community Awards. How a negative angle can be created by this is a mystery to me and one I treat with the contempt it deserves.
3. Playing Under Age Players in a Junior Game:
Earlier this year in a junior preseason unofficiated scrimmage three Players registered to the clubs U17 Youth team did take to the field due to the misinterpretation of BAFA rules which have, since the incident, been amended by BAFA:
BAFA COMPETITION RULES AND REGULATIONS 2019
1.11 Official Game shall mean a regular season game or tournament, play-off game or associate fixture, (or any other game or tournament as may be specified by the pre-season game or tournament. Plus, any game which involves at least one team representing a BAFA organisation Competition Management from time to time.)
(The BOLD has been added since the incident in question).
The club as we understood the ‘no-step back rule’ was to be only enforced for official game participation in league competition. Two of the players in question were of the required age (16) to play Junior football with their parents requesting their participation to see if they were indeed ready to step up or not. (In previous years duel participation has been allowed).
A third player (15) accompanied by his parents on the day and with their permission wanted to play on the same team as his older brother (19) just one time, a decision in hindsight I now regret allowing, as my heart overruled my head.
These infractions were reported to BAFA Age Groups Commission Lead Stuart Potts-Perkins and without any kind of formal enquiry 72hrs before our home U17 tournament opener sanctions were laid down via email to ban all three players from the competition; The two 16 year olds banned from U17 football entirely and the 15-year-old to receive a one game ban at the start of the 1st tournament. (The 15-year-old later had his ban rescinded on the morning of the game, but the other two players bans were upheld).
As the Head Coach in-charge of the infractions I was fined £100 payable direct to BAFA – which was paid.
Despite two attempts from the club and the parents of the two 16 year olds in question to appeal the decision to ban them from U17 football backed up by statements from the parents (and medical practitioners concerning one of the young men’s mental health), appeals heard by both Steve Rains, then Director of BAFA Operations, and now interim BAFA Operations Director Clive Dobbins, were thrown out with the original punishment of U17 Youth football being taken away from them upheld.
On a personal note no-one was harmed, no competition was affected by the young men’s participation in said fixture and maybe some kind of common sense should have prevailed here. The only people to suffer from BAFA’s ruling were the two young men in question who were denied the opportunity to play their final year of eligibility at the Youth age level with their friends and team-mates.
4. Fights on Game Days:
There have been posts alluding to fights on game days ranging from youth/junior players to coaches brawling on the side-line and being split up by officials.
I can confirm no fight between any players or coaches on my side-line has needed to be split up by BAFA officials and if an incident had been reported it would have been formally documented in BAFA’s own weekly bulletins (which I have researched and found no such recorded event).
Emotions naturally run high on game days however I will confirm that on one occasion my then U17 DC and I had a disagreement which developed into a verbal altercation during the second half of a game. In this instance the coach in question was asked to leave the sideline and has since left the club of his own accord. This was neither practical or suitable and has since been dealt with in-house.
Another post alludes to threats of stabbing, this is the first I have heard of this and I ask the source to come forward with evidence as this is indeed a very serious accusation!
5. Welfare Officer:
I can confirm the club’s welfare officer is my partner and well qualified for her position. There are no rules against this and BAFA are well aware.
Whilst I have a thick skin for nonsense, it hurts me immensely that she has been dragged into the bilge that has appeared online.
I can also refute claims that she is the acting treasurer or has ever been the treasurer of the club as law states the Chairman and Treasurer cannot live within the same residential address.
The Treasurer of the club at present has been in-place since the clubs founding in 2016.
On this basis I refute the spurious accusations I have read that the Treasurer was relieved of their duties for questioning some sort of financial impropriety. To say this is nonsense would be an understatement.
6. Using Club associated funds for holidays:
These kinds of accusations could not only damage the integrity of the management but the club in its entirety.
I can equivocally state that no club funds have ever and will ever be used to fund holidays for myself or any member of the club management or otherwise.
All accounts are checked and accounted for with receipts and files recording the income and expenditure of the club and are available upon request by the club’s members.
The total 2019 income and expenditure of our Senior Associate Team was checked and verified this past Friday evening 13th September by Senior Game Day Manager Emma Benningwood and Players Representative Nicholas Jaco and reported back to the senior players.
The Club has never been or has ever claimed to be a ‘registered charity’, we are a non-profit community based sports club.
There has never been a single allegation towards the club about financial discrepancies or otherwise by any parents since being founded in 2016.
DC are given to understand the Jaguars intend to release further statement(s) relating to other allegations made in the near future.