VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – A wrong email, human error, and miscommunication are to blame for a Vancouver team getting a $200 fine notice after they cancelled a game because of COVID-19 concerns, according to the league.
Urban Recreation says no teams will be financially penalized for opting out of games over virus fears, provided they follow the proper procedures.
The clarification comes after outdoor soccer player Johnny Murphy took to Reddit to say he and his teammates were given a $200 penalty by Urban Rec for cancelling a game this week, citing concerns over the continued spread of the virus and strong suggestions from Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry to avoid social gatherings for the next two weeks.
Steve Laing, managing partner at Urban Rec, says the notice Murphy’s team received was sent in error.
“It is unfortunate that a mistake was made, but it was an honest mistake and we are absolutely, in no way, ever fining people for not wanting to play because of COVID,” Laing said. “One of the things that happens when we are contacted by a team that is looking to not play a game for COVID-related reasons we, first of all, try and attempt to get that game rescheduled to allow for the team they’re playing against to have another game.”
Wrong email sent
Laing says a make-up game wasn’t able to be scheduled, meaning the team to initiate — Murphy’s team — was supposed to be put into an “opt-out policy,” where they could take a two-week break from play without repercussions. However, an employee failed to communicate that information to Murphy, and instead sent an email stating they still had to pay a fine.
He says the staff member was trying to determine if Murphy’s team was genuinely cancelling for that reason and not just to skip out on possible fees and return the next week.
“In this situation, our staff member that was working with this particular team got caught up in the scheduling issue. Once they were unable to make that accommodation, they actually made a mistake and they sent the wrong email,” Laing says.
“In an effort to try and go an extra distance and make the situation better for our participant and our team, [the staff member] was unable to do that, and then, unfortunately, compounded that error by sending out the wrong email followed up to that when it should have been an opt-out email.”
The two-week timeline allows players the time to determine whether any players have tested positive for the coronavirus or if there was any spread, and also gives the league time to reschedule missed games, Laing adds.
Murphy, however, says he isn’t alone in his complaint. In an update to his original Reddit post, Murphy confirms the fine has been waved, which he says he appreciates, but he takes issue with the ordeal, since others responded to his social media complaint, saying they have gone through similar situations with Urban Rec.
Murphy says he and his teammates, two of whom are considered high-risk, decided to not play their Nov. 11 soccer game because of B.C.’s ongoing surge in COVID-19 cases and the new public health orders put in place last weekend.
“We heard the guidelines on the weekend and the first thing we thought of was, ‘OK, can we still play Urban Rec?’ because it was kind of a grey area, considering you shouldn’t be seeing your friends outside but we can still play team sports, it’s strange,” Murphy told CityNews Vancouver prior to hearing back from Urban Rec.
Murphy said he gave the league 30-hours notice.
“I was livid, I was very angry,” he recalled feeling when he first got notice of the fine.
Urban Rec’s $200 penalty is standard for missed games, Murphy said, adding the rationale is to deter players from deciding not to play whenever they want, impacting other teams.
Team was ‘never going to be charged’
Laing says Murphy reached out to the league on Thursday to see if the situation could be rectified.
“He was never going to be charged the fine,” Laing stresses, adding Murphy would have had to pay the penalty if his team simply did not show up to the game and didn’t provide a reason. “But in this case, he reached out to us and said, ‘Look, we’re not comfortable with COVID due to the spike in numbers,’ which is completely understandable.”
Laing says they’ve learned to make communication more comprehensive.
“We’re a small business trying our best to navigate and deal with this pandemic and all the changes rules and regulations. We’re not perfect, we make mistakes.”
-With files from Lasia Kretzel