Football Australia launches independent investigation after allegations of harassment, abuse

Football Australia launches independent investigation after allegations of harassment, abuse

Lisa De Vanna

An independent investigation will be launched at Football Australia into the treatment of female footballers, after Matildas legend Lisa De Vanna made allegations of historical sexual harassment and abuse within the game.

Lisa De Vanna, widely considered one of the best Australian football players of all time, told The Daily Telegraph that she had suffered from harassment, abuse, grooming and bullying throughout her career, dating back twenty years.

De Vanna alleged there is a toxic culture within the sport, and claimed incidents occurred within the team environment, and that she was sexually harassed by senior teammates as a Young Matilda in 2001.

“I was pulled down from behind and dry-humped by a few of my teammates. I fought my way off the floor kicking and screaming. They thought it was funny,” De Vanna told News Corp. “I was just a young kid from Perth, I didn’t know any different. I lost my shit and wanted to punch them.”

De Vanna also claimed there was an incident where she received unwanted advances from other players while in the showers. “There was a time when I was asked to join two girls in the shower rubbing soap on each other,” De Vanna said. “I told them to f*** off and they laughed and said “you know you want to join us”.

De Vanna’s allegations come after she posted on Twitter on Saturday, saying she had seen women protecting other women, players protecting senior players, and organisations protecting coaches and players. Her tweet was in response to US captain Megan Rapinoe, who had tweeted about sexual misconduct allegations that have come to light in the US.

In the article published by The Daily Telegraph, recently retired W-League player Rhali Dobson also made allegations of a toxic culture in football.

In a statement, Football Australia said the claims would be investigated, but also said it has previously met with Lisa De Vanna, and that “some of the specific allegations made public were not raised with us in that meeting”.

“We have no knowledge of what steps, if any our predecessor organisation, Soccer Australia, undertook in 2001. In the event that Lisa chooses to lodge a formal complaint through the appropriate channels, we will be in a position to investigate and, if appropriate, act accordingly. The same process is open to Rhali Dobson and other former players and staff to formally bring forward any claims.”

Football Australia also said that on top of its formal complaints processes, it has been engaging with Sport Integrity Australia to develop additional process for independently investigating allegations of a “historical nature as they relate to former player and staff”.

“We will announce the joint initiative with SIA once the details have been finalised,” the statement said.

“Australian football takes a zero-tolerance approach to any conduct which breaches the standards and values expected of people involved in the game. To that end, we encourage anyone to bring forward their concerns through Football Australia’s formal complaints process under the Member Protection Framework, with the knowledge that any such matter will be taken seriously and investigated thoroughly.”

Beau Busch and Kathryn Gill, co-chief executives of Professional Footballers Australia, said they were “deeply concerned” about the allegations highlighted by The Daily Telegraph.

“We are deeply concerned about the experiences highlighted by players in the media and we recognise that the decision to speak publicly would not have been made lightly,” they said.

“All players should feel safe, included and respected.

“It is critical that the sport provides a safe and inclusive workplace and, importantly, the players are supported to come forward.

“The PFA has reaffirmed all support and reporting mechanisms available to players and will continue to ensure that the full resources of the PFA are available to all current and former players.”

Lisa De Vanna retired from the game last month, after playing with Melbourne Victory in the W-League. She made 150 appearances for the Matildas over her career.

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