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COVID-19

A Mass. flag football league knew it couldn’t host non-local teams at an N.H. tournament. It did anyway — and got fined

The New England Flag Football League was allegedly in violation of Governor Chris Sununu’s emergency safety order.
The New England Flag Football League was allegedly in violation of Governor Chris Sununu’s emergency safety order.Robert F. Bukaty/Associated Press

A flag football league based on Boston’s North Shore has been fined $2,000 for recklessly violating New Hampshire’s COVID-19 safety regulations by holding a tournament in Epping, N.H., that included teams from outside New England, authorities in New Hampshire announced Tuesday.

Despite multiple warnings that teams from outside the region were not permitted, the New England Flag Football League staged a "Summer Showdown'' tournament from Aug. 21-23 at the Seacoast United Sports Complex that included teams from Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Wisconsin, according to a statement issued by New Hampshire’s attorney general, Gordon J. MacDonald.

A notice of the fine, levied by the N.H. Department of Health and Human Services, alleges the New England Flag Football League, based in Beverly, defied state regulations by hosting 68 youths on eight teams from Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Wisconsin. The teams ranged in age groups from 6 and under to 12 and under.

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“Given the multiple warnings prior to the event, the actions of NEFFL were reckless and intentional,” Anne M. Edwards, an associate N.H. attorney general, wrote to Austin Bradshaw, who owns the league and organized the tournament.

Bradshaw did not respond to requests for comment. He bought the league in January from Jeremy Coffey and Andrew Tripp, who founded it in 2012.

Coffey expressed surprise at the alleged violation. Bradshaw has operated other youth sports programs on the North Shore.

“Austin has always run great leagues and is a stand-up guy,” Coffey said. “He has always gotten real good reviews and has done a nice job by people.”

No disciplinary action was taken against the Seacoast United Sports Complex.

“Our understanding was that Austin followed all the protocols,” said David Burgess, the complex’s director of facilities and operations, who helped Bradshaw site the tournament. “This is news to us.”

No information was provided about whether anyone has contracted COVID-19 because of the gathering. New Hampshire authorities said Bradshaw’s league could have been fined as much as $8,000 — $10,000 for each team that was in violation of Governor Chris Sununu’s emergency safety order.

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Many images on social media show youths who played in the tournament not wearing face coverings. In their notice to Bradshaw, New Hampshire authorities said they had informed him that face coverings were required for gatherings of 100 or more people, but they cited no violations. Burgess said the Seacoast United staff did require spectators to wear face coverings.

New Hampshire authorities said Bradshaw, despite their express concerns, assured them on the day the tournament started and on the second day of the event that he was aware of the prohibitions against teams from outside New England participating.

“No problem,” Bradshaw allegedly told a member of the attorney general’s staff.

The day after the tournament, a picture was posted on the New England Flag Football League’s Facebook page from the “Summer Showdown” tournament. It was accompanied by a message that said, “Players want to play!! @charliebakerma Let our kids in MA play flag football.”

The Facebook account also featured pictures of the tournament’s divisional champions, including teams from Pennsylvania and Ohio. Teams from across Massachusetts, as well as New Hampshire, Maine, Connecticut, and Rhode Island also participated.

A team from New York had planned to attend but was told to stay home by New Hampshire authorities who learned the club had registered for the tournament, authorities said.

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Bob Hohler can be reached at robert.hohler@globe.com.