AFL news 2022: Gillon McLachlan’s stunning admission on female umpire abuse report

AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan has admitted to not reading the report on female umpires and assault until it was leaked to the media.

AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan has admitted to not reading the damning report on female umpires encountering sexual harassment and abuse in the sport until it was leaked to the media.

Last week, the Herald Sun published the 62-page “Girls and women in Australian football umpiring: Understanding registration, participation and retention” report, which found that women umpires have been subjected to a culture of sexual harassment from grassroots level through to the top elite of the game.

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The damning report was completed in August, but was only made public this month.

The AFL released a statement in response, declaring it will act on the 11 key recommendations presented in the report.

But speaking on 3AW, McLachlan confessed the PDF was “widely distributed” within the AFL, but failed to reach his inbox.

“I have (read it) now. I hadn’t received it when it broke in the media,” he said on Friday.

“The point that’s been made is that it should have been made public, and we’ve acknowledged that.

“We commissioned the report, we actioned the report and somewhere in between there it wasn’t publicly communicated.

“It was widely distributed, but not publicly communicated and I think we’ve acknowledged it should’ve been.”

The bombshell report lifted the lid on shocking treatment female umpires have faced, including selection exclusion, change rooms discrimination and sexual harassment from spectators, coaches and fellow umpires.

The report — carried out by the University of Sydney — interviewed 27 umpires for their research into female umpire participation — and some of the stories included in the report are truly shocking.

One female umpire in the report said: “The worst part is with people who don’t wait for you to leave or sort yourself out (in the changerooms). Old guys or old umpires just strip and they don’t give a s***”.

Another umpire said she had also endured similar inappropriate behaviour in changerooms.

“We understand that we’re trying to have diversity men and women and everywhere, but at the end of the day people still want their privacy to get changed, it’s pretty ridiculous that you have everyone in the same room, absolutely everyone. Just to strip,” she said.

Another junior level umpire tells the report she was told by an U11s coach: “I don’t want you to umpire, you’re a female, you can’t umpire. I want these boys to be umpired by a proper umpire”.

Last week, former Melbourne captain Garry Lyon criticised the AFL for appearing to hide the damning report.

“It makes you sick to the stomach, when you read what some of these women have had to go through as they pursue their careers in umpiring,” he told SEN.

“You can’t bury this stuff.

“You have to make it public so then you address it and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

Females make up just 10 per cent of umpires nationally and the AFL wants to increase that participation to 40 per cent in the future.

AFL’s statement in confirming details of the report

We are committed to ensuring that women and girls of all ages can take part in our game in a safe, welcoming, and inclusive environment, and while we have seen a doubling of the number of girls and women playing football since AFLW was introduced, we have not experienced a similar growth in the umpiring ranks. To better understand this trend, we commissioned a report to look at all the elements that lead to girls and women continuing to be under-represented in umpiring at all levels.

As part of that ‘Girls and Women in Australian Football Umpiring study’, current and former umpires were interviewed and provided valuable feedback on all the physical, cultural and environmental barriers that impacted the pathway for girls and women umpiring at community and the elite level. The important findings and recommendations of the report have formed the basis for a number of initiatives that have been included in the ‘Women and Girls Game Development Action Plan’ which is in its final stages of completion.

The initiatives in the plan are designed to increase representation of women and girls in all parts or our game from players to umpires to coaches and administrators and are aimed at ensuring a safe, welcoming, and inclusive environment for women and girls, including to lift the number of women umpires to 40%.

In order to achieve that growth, we will introduce a number of policy directives including developing and publishing the ‘Community football guiding principles for equity’, which will comprise initiatives such as umpiring appointments, access to multi-gender or shared space facilities, establishing female mentoring programs to accelerate the pathway for women and girls and helping to achieve more gender-balanced leadership in all community football leagues and clubs.

The report has been a valuable resource for our team in prioritising the key initiatives to accelerate the growth in women and girls taking on umpiring roles across the country and ensuring we have a safe and welcoming pathway that allows women and girls to progress from community to AFL and AFLW level.

Originally published as AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan’s stunning admission on abuse report

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