Football Australia pledges to investigate abuse allegations

Retired player Lisa De Vanna says she saw abuse towards younger female players and authorities protecting abusers.

De Vanna, right, played 150 times and scored 47 goals for Australia [File: Reuters]

Football Australia (FA) has pledged to investigate abuse allegations after recently retired international striker Lisa De Vanna said she had been the victim of sexual assault, harassment and bullying during her career.

FA said in a statement on Wednesday that it would investigate any abuse allegations and that Sport Integrity Australia (SIA), a government agency that oversees doping and corruption in sport in the country, would oversee an independent complaints process for players and staff.

De Vanna made her initial allegations in response to a Twitter post by US international player Megan Rapinoe, who commented on allegations of misconduct against former North Carolina Courage head coach Paul Riley.

The 36-year-old De Vanna, who played 150 times and scored 47 goals for her country across two decades, replied that she had witnessed women in the game abusing younger female players, and organisations protecting the abusers.

“There needs to be consequences. There needs to be accountability,” she said in an interview with News Corps media.

“I have seen cultural problems at all levels throughout the years – from men and women – and girls coming through need to be brave, and also the girls that have been through this also need to be brave and know they are not alone.

“Have I been sexually harassed? Yes. Have I been bullied? Yes. Ostracised? Yes. Have I seen things that have made me uncomfortable? Yes.”

FA chief executive James Johnson pledged, “We’re committed to safe, inclusive environments for all footballers and staff.”

“There is no place for abuse, harassment or bullying in our sport and it’s incumbent on organisations like ours to take the lead when it comes to dealing with these issues head-on.”

FA said it had recently approached SIA to discuss an independent complaints procedure and Johnson welcomed the “timely” announcement.

 

De Vanna went public with her allegations in the wake of the scandal in the United States, where the National Women’s Soccer League called off games on the weekend and its commissioner quit amid a sexual harassment and misconduct allegations involving a longtime coach.

FA said in a statement on Tuesday that it had met De Vanna to discuss her “grievances” but some of the allegations she made in the media had not been raised at the time.

Another recently retired Australian professional, Rhali Dobson, also claimed she had been the target of predatory behaviour.

Professional Footballers Australia, the players’ union, said it was deeply concerned about the allegations.

“All players should feel safe, included and respected,” it said.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies

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