Matildas abuse allegations: details of investigation set to be revealed

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  • Sport Integrity Australia to announce framework this week
  • Current Matildas squad are in Sydney for Brazil friendly

The framework of Sport Integrity Australia’s investigation into allegations of misconduct in football is expected to be formally announced this week, just as the Matildas arrive in Sydney for the friendly series against Brazil.

The women’s national team have been at the centre of heavy media scrutiny over the fortnight since former teammate Lisa De Vanna made historical allegations of sexual harassment, indecent assault, grooming and bullying throughout her 20-year career, at both amateur and professional levels.

Another player, Rhali Dobson, also claims she has been a target of predatory behaviour over her career.

Football Australia must learn lessons from past in Lisa De Vanna abuse investigation

The claims, published in an interview with News Corp, prompted an immediate response from Football Australia, which announced a joint initiative with SIA to “receive, assess, and manage” all complaints independently of the federation.

The scope of that investigation is expected to encompass four areas – harassment, bullying, intimidation and discrimination – as part of an expanded remit that also includes men’s football.

SIA – the federal sports watchdog which commenced operations last year as an amalgamation of the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority, the department of health and the integrity arms of Sport Australia – will accept submissions regarding both historical and current complaints over several months.

SIA chief executive David Sharpe said the process would ensure “nothing can be swept under the carpet”.

Once complete, FA chief executive James Johnson has indicated the governing body will accept SIA’s recommendations, including imposing sanctions for any person found to have engaged in inappropriate behaviour.

An FA spokesperson said details of the framework were likely to be announced later this week.

De Vanna’s explosive allegations mean the overall focus has fallen on the culture of the women’s game, meaning all eyes are on the Matildas as members of the squad start to land in Sydney on Monday ahead of their first home matches in almost two years.

The side is likely to face questions about the team environment – in particular their response to the claims of their former teammate of a toxic culture within the game generally – in the days leading up to their opening friendly against Brazil at CommBank Stadium on Saturday night.

Last week the Matildas issued a joint statement welcoming an independent review but also defending its “strong professional, inclusive and supportive culture”. The statement was supplemented by 15 individual statements from members of the current playing group.

The players’ union subsequently revealed that existing and former Matildas had received “abhorrent” abuse on social media. Professional Footballers Australia said that included homophobic comments, threats and the circulation of private images without players’ consent.

On Sunday De Vanna, Australia’s second-highest all-time goalscorer, wrote in a column for News Corp that she had felt hurt by the team’s joint statement. “I was a part of that family too and so is every other player who has worn that jersey,” she wrote. “But I am not surprised. I have always felt like I am on the outer but I have to stay true to myself.”

Matildas coach Tony Gustavsson has also welcomed the independent review.

“It’s not easy to come forward, it takes a lot from Lisa, Rhali and others to do so,” Gustavsson said last week. “We need to show support. We need to encourage everyone to come forward and [have] the comfort to do so.

“It’s very important that no player, no staff – whether it’s former, current or future – stand alone in a situation like this. I want to be clear: there’s no room for harassment, for bullying, for sexual abuse in our game.”

The Matildas will play their second friendly against Brazil on Tuesday week, also at Commbank Stadium in Parramatta.

(By Emma Kemp, The Guardian, 18.10.2021)

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