Sydney (AFP) – An independent inquiry into an alleged toxic culture within Australian football has referred three separate complaints to police, with two further claims being probed in house.
The review by Sport Integrity Australia, a government agency, was sparked by historic claims of sexual harassment in the women’s game by former members of the national team, most notably star striker Lisa De Vanna.
De Vanna, who earned 150 caps for Australia before her retirement last year, said she was regularly subject to predatory behaviour early in her career.
SIA said it had received 27 submissions since opening its probe in November into alleged bullying, child abuse, grooming, harassment, sexual misconduct, discrimination, victimisation and vilification at the national level.
Of those, nine were from individuals directly impacted, and 18 were from witnesses.
Only two will be investigated further by SIA, as the other 25 are outside its remit because they either did not happen at the national level, the alleged conduct was not prohibited or the submission was made anonymously.
But three of the 25 have been forwarded to police “because they included information that could warrant criminal investigation”, SIA said in a statement late Thursday.
– ‘Discouraged’ –
“Every person who speaks up helps us understand what is happening in their sport, and where, and on what issues we need to direct our education and policy resources to build stronger, safer environments in future,” said SIA chief David Sharpe.
Football Australia’s move to get SIA involved came after independent reviews found evidence of a toxic culture and abuse in women’s gymnastics and hockey.
Last year, Swimming Australia also set up an independent panel to investigate issues relating to women and girls, some dating back decades. In January, it publicly apologised for the way they had been treated.
Football Australia acknowledged SIA’s update in a brief statement and said it continued to fully support the process.
De Vanna alleged last year she had been “sexually harassed, bullied, and ostracised” during her career.
She welcomed acknowledgement of problems at the national level, as dealt with by the SIA review, but said it should also be looking at community and grassroots football.
“I can’t say too much as investigations are still going,” she told the Sydney Daily Telegraph Friday.
“But for the SIA to only investigate incidents at the national level was concerning. I think many people may walk away from this investigation discouraged by the whole process.”
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