Whole rugby team receives formal warning while several to undergo counselling
The Australian Olympic Committee has appointed a senior team manager to babysit athletes on flights home from Tokyo after the country’s rugby and football teams reportedly caused chaos on a flight.
It comes in response to a list of demands from Japan Airlines that included a chaperone to help crew maintain “discipline” in a cabin full of rowdy Aussies. More bad behaviour would be reported to federal police.
A spokesman for the Australian Olympic Committee told The Independent that a designated point of contact, already scheduled to be on board, has been briefed to act as the point person and ensure no repeat performances of excessive drinking, vomiting and ignoring Covid guidelines.
While there were 49 athletes from nine different sports on the 10-hour flight to Sydney, it was the boys from rugby and soccer that owned up to the obnoxious behaviour, at least in part.
“Following unacceptable behaviour on the first commercial flight back to Sydney, the system has worked well and there has been no further issue,” the spokesman said.
The issue, or “undesirable behaviour” as Japan Airlines put it, has led to a formal reprimand for all 13 members of the men’s rugby sevens team.
An investigation by Rugby Australia’s Integrity Unit found the team left an apartment in the Olympic Village in an “unacceptable state” with damage to beds, a common area in the apartment and a scuffed up a wall in the physiotherapy room. They will reimburse the damages.
The investigation found that several members of the team were drinking excessive amounts of alcohol on JAL 51, while also being disruptive to cabin crew and other passengers on board the flight, Rugby Australia said in a statement.
They didn’t, however, claim responsibility for any of the damage done to the seats, aisles or bathroom, which was reportedly left blocked up and unusable.
While the whole team were “formally warned”, several will also be required to undergo education and counselling regarding alcohol consumption.
“It is without a doubt that this will have a bearing on how we look at the Sevens environment going forward,” said Rugby Australia chief executive Andy Marinos.
Following the complaint from Japan Airlines, Australian chef de mission Ian Chesterman confirmed the alcohol-fuelled antics included ignoring cabin crew and at least one person throwing up in the toilet.
He stopped short, however, of saying that the Australian Olympic Committee would ban the athletes from future games.
“The rugby and football teams are full of good people, but some have clearly made poor choices, as young people from time to time do … I hope and believe in the future they will make better choices,” he said.
“We need to put all of these things into perspective as well, there are appropriate processes in place,” he added.