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Crows say vax link to player injury 'not conclusive'

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The Adelaide Crows say it is “not conclusive” that a SANFL player’s hospitalisation was linked to a COVID vaccine he was administered two days earlier, as the club seeks to move on from the “diversion” of a standoff with board member Nick Takos over its vaccination mandate.

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Takos yesterday quit the board, days after InDaily revealed his standoff with the football club over its directive that all employees be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by mid-December, in line with an AFL ‘no jab, no play’ directive for players and football department staff.

The resignation came days after a SANFL-listed Crows player was hospitalised after receiving his first dose of the mRNA vaccine, prompting Takos to call a special board meeting, which he attended via video link, “to urgently discuss the player’s condition, the health and safety of all of our players and other associated risks”.

Takos said in a statement yesterday that “it was clear the board was immovable on this issue”.

Crows chairman John Olsen said while the vaccination may have been linked to the player’s condition, which Takos said was pericarditis, he emphasised it also “may not have been”.

“That’s not conclusive… they’re doing further work on it, trying to establish that,” he told InDaily.

“As I understand it, it’s not conclusive.”

Asked whether the club expected any liability claim over its vaccine mandate if a link was established, Olsen said: “Not on the advice that’s been given to us at this stage.”

He said there was an equal obligation to protect players, staff and the wider community from COVID-19.

“Our responsibility is to look after everybody, under all circumstances,” he said.

“One doesn’t override the other – it’s just duty of care across the board.”

Despite conceding the episode with Takos was a distraction, Olsen says the club will not be moving away from member-elected board directors, despite arguing there are no significant expertise gaps on the current board.

“Over the past few weeks a lot of time has been expended on managing this issue at a time when our total focus should be on the rebuild and our submission in relation to our new headquarters,” he said.

He lamented “the enormous amount of time in managing the issue when we’re focusing on a critically important strategic direction for the club”.

“It’s a diversion from the key issues that the club was managing – [but] be that as it may, that happens in all sorts of circumstances.

“Any organisation at any institution that I’ve had with – in government, corporations or football clubs – there are issues that arise from time to time, and you’ve just got to deal with those issues and chart a course forward.”

He would not be drawn on whether the democratisation of the club’s board had become problematic, but insisted that “the members are entitled to have representation on the board”.

“We put in place this member engagement process [and] we’re not moving away from that,” he said.

The Crows will replace Takos via its next member-elected director ballot beginning in January, when incumbent board member and premiership player Rob Jameson will also seek re-election – an outcome Olsen concedes is a virtual fait accompli.

But the chair and former premier says while that will leave an extra vacancy, there is no glaring deficiency on the board that needs to be met.

“We’ve got it covered pretty well,” he said, citing Bendigo and Adelaide Bank CFO Richard Fennell’s finance acumen, Optus procurement manager Shanti Berggren’s background in legal risk and Seppetsfield owner Warren Randall’s entrepreneurialism.

“If you look around the table, the skill set is diverse [so] in that context there’s not something that stands out.”

However, he added, the club’s imminent foray into building a new base – and leveraging it for commercial return – could see the need for fresh expertise.

“If we’re proceeding with property development it might be valuable to have someone that’s experienced in development and construction, for example,” he said.

While details of the club’s revenue-making intentions are commercial-in-confidence as part of its pitch to Renewal SA for its Bowden Gasworks site, Olsen said “with a new HQ, we’ll be wanting to look at long-term additional revenue streams to support the club”.

He said that would include “a range of measures” for “some commercial opportunities that might emerge”.

Renewal SA is expected to confirm its preferred bidder by Christmas, with the Crows one of four developers eyeing off the 5.81 hectare site.

But he said if several candidates nominated for the board role, the club would not advocate for or against any candidate.

“We would leave it to the judgement of the members, [based on] the CVs that the various candidates would put forward,” he said.

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