The Matilda’s squad has responded to Lisa De Vanna’s bombing allegations of abuse and bullying in women’s football and supported her move to come forward while defending the team’s culture and inclusiveness.
- The Matildas playgroup says they have a strong, inclusive culture that does not tolerate inappropriate behavior
- Former players Lisa de Vanna and Rhali Dobson have alleged abuse and a toxic culture in women’s football
- Football Australia’s CEO James Johnson has vowed to take immediate action if there is evidence of misconduct
Football Australia confirmed last week that it – in conjunction with Sport Integrity Australia (SIA) – had set up an independent system for handling complaints and allegations of misconduct by players and officials.
The move came after De Vanna – who has been restricted 150 times for Australia and scored 47 goals in a star career – claimed she was bullied, sexually harassed and ostracized several times during her playing days in an interview with The Daily Telegraph.
After retiring from professional football last month. De Vanna, 36, claimed the abuse started when she was in the Young Matildas set-up as a 17-year-old.
Former W-League footballer Rhali Dobson has also come forward to talk about a toxic culture in the sport.
The Matildas players issued a group statement and also included comments from individual players.
“We acknowledge the seriousness of Lisa’s claims about the past and we sympathize with her because she did not feel she could come forward sooner,” the players’ statement read.
“We will work with Football Australia, PFA and Sport Integrity Australia to ensure that all current and future players feel safe, secure and able to report cases of inappropriate behavior in a timely manner.
“We support athletes who are able to stand up and report cases of inappropriate behavior in their respective environments, and therefore welcome an independent review of this issue.”
The group said the team had a “strong professional, inclusive and supportive culture” that did not approve of any inappropriate behavior.
“It was disappointing to observe conversations emanating from the group not accepting differences, especially given the diversity that exists within our current leadership team on all of these fronts, let alone across the broader team.”
Skipper Sam Kerr was among a number of players to add individual comments.
“I have been a part of this team for 12 amazing years, from 15 years to now. Throughout my career, Matildas has been a safe haven for me and allowed me to grow into the player and person I am today,” Kerr said.
“I consider myself lucky to be a part of this amazing group of athletes and people.”
FA’s Johnson swears action if rules violate
In an interview with News Corporation on Monday, FA CEO James Johnson said his organization would enforce any recommendations from the SIA in response to allegations they investigated.
“When it’s done, and when people not only hear it in statements, but see it and feel it and understand it on earth, I think it will breathe life into what we say.”
Johnson promised that there would be an immediate response if the investigation found inappropriate behavior had taken place.
“If there has been any conduct that does not meet the standards expected by Football Australia or the community and it is a breach of our rules, then action will be taken.