The Airdrie Irish men's football team suffered their first loss of 2022 on June 18, falling 41-15 to the visiting Cold Lake Fighter Jets, and the game ended with a bench-clearing brawl among players, staff, and attendees.
The two table-topping teams both went into the game with matching 2-0 records in the Alberta Football League (AFL). With the loss, the Irish drop down to a two-way tie for second place with the Fort McMurray Monarchs in the five-team league. Cold Lake remains unbeaten and in first place.
Even though he was on the losing team, Irish running back Connor Lutz was selected as the AFL's media player of the game, following a two-touchdown performance.
On June 21, the Irish released a team statement on social media expressing disappointment in a physical altercation that erupted between players, fans, and coaches at the end of the game against Cold Lake.
"The Airdrie Irish are disappointed in the product put on the field this past Saturday against the Cold Lake Fighter Jets," read the Facebook statement, attributed to head coach Anton Bellot and Lutz, who is the team president. "Not because of the final score, but because of the actions taken by individuals during and following the scheduled game. The club holds its players, coaches, and fans accountable to a high standard of professional conduct, rooted in respect, integrity and honour for the game of football."
The statement went on to say the Irish have disciplined the players who were involved in the dust-up.
"The incident involving physical altercation of players, coaches and fans following the game will not be tolerated and appropriate internal disciplinary action has been taken against club members following the process outlined in the team bylaws," the statement read. "The club intends this action to set precedence for similar action to be taken by both the Cold Lake Fighter Jets organization and the Alberta Football League, ensuring a safe, fair and inclusive environment for all participants in Alberta Football League games."
The Fighter Jets posted a similar statement on their own Facebook page, attributed to Daniel Jubinville and Damen Schaub, president and general manager of the team.
The AFL responded to a request for comment from AirdrieToday with its own statement, attributed to league president Vince Roth, which read that the AFL does not condone "any of the actions during and following Saturday night's game" between Airdrie and Cold Lake.
The written response added the AFL's representatives will be speaking to representatives from both teams and are also going over video footage of the game to try and accurately determine what happened.
"After that process is complete the league will take proper disciplinary actions towards those involved," the statement read. "We apologize to all in attendance and hope to finish the season with no further incidents."
The Irish's next game will be held on June 25, when they travel north to face the Edmonton Elite. The Elite currently sport a 1-1 record, having enjoyed a bye week last weekend.
According to the Irish's social media, the next game will have potential implications in terms of the team's chance of having home field advantage for the AFL playoffs.