‘For many, this team has been a safe haven’: Matildas players say they have supportive culture amid abuse allegations

The Matildas playing group has responded to Lisa De Vanna’s bombshell allegations of abuse and bullying in women’s football, supporting her move to come forward while defending the team’s culture and inclusivity.

Football Australia confirmed last week that it — in conjunction with Sport Integrity Australia (SIA) — had set up an independent system to manage complaints and allegations of misconduct by players and officials.

The move came after De Vanna — who has been capped 150 times for Australia, scoring 47 goals in a stellar career — alleged she was bullied, sexually harassed and ostracised on a number of occasions during her playing days, in an interview with The Daily Telegraph.

Having retired from professional football last month. De Vanna, 36, alleged the abuse started when she was in the Young Matildas set-up, at age 17.

Former W-League footballer Rhali Dobson has also come forward to speak about a toxic culture within the sport.

The Matildas players released a group statement and also included comments from individual players.

“We acknowledge the seriousness of Lisa’s allegations about the past and we empathise with her for not feeling like she could come forth earlier,” the players’ statement read.

“We will work with Football Australia, the PFA and Sport Integrity Australia to ensure that all current and future players feel comfortable, safe and able to report instances of inappropriate behaviour, in a timely manner.

“We stand supportive of athletes who are able to come forward and report instances of inappropriate behaviour in their respective environments and, therefore, welcome an independent review into this matter.”

The group said the team had a “strong professional, inclusive and supportive culture” that did not condone any inappropriate behaviour.

“It was disappointing to observe conversations inferring the group is not accepting of differences, especially given the diversity that exists within our current leadership group on all those fronts, let alone across the broader team.”

Skipper Sam Kerr was among a series of players to add individual comments.

“I have been a part of this team for 12 amazing years, from 15 years old to now. Throughout my career, the Matildas have been a safe haven for me and allowed me to grow into the player and person I am today,” Kerr said.

“I count myself lucky to be a part of this amazing group of athletes and people.”

FA’s Johnson vows action if rules breaches found

In an interview with News Corporation on Monday, FA chief executive James Johnson said his organisation would enforce any recommendations made by SIA in response to allegations they investigated.

“Once that’s done and once people not only hear it in statements, but see it and feel it and understand it on the ground, I think that will breathe life into what we’re saying.”

Johnson vowed that there would be an immediate response if the investigation found inappropriate behaviour had taken place.

“If there has been behaviour that doesn’t meet the standards expected by Football Australia or the community and it’s a breach of our rules, then there will be action taken.

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