Matildas coach Tony Gustavasson says allegations of harassment and abuse in Australian football have not threatened his squad’s build-up to their first match on home soil in close to 18 months.
- Gustavsson says the Matildas have not been distracted by allegations of misconduct in Australian football
- The Matildas have not played in Australia since early 2020
- They are to meet Brazil in two friendlies
The Matildas — who have not played in Australia since March 2020 — will take on Brazil in the first of two fixtures on Saturday in Parramatta.
However, the lead-up to Saturday’s match has been overshadowed by allegations from retired Matildas player Lisa De Vanna of sexual harassment and abuse during her decorated career in Australian women’s football.
As Football Australia (FA) and Sport Integrity Australia (SIA) detail an investigation that will take submissions into such claims until the end of January, Gustavsson used the opening of his first media conference in Australia to address the issue.
“I want to be really clear that the wellbeing of players and staff in the team is the number one priority for us and we need to create a safe and inclusive environment,” Gustavsson said on Friday.
“We need to face this, head-on, and be willing to get better. We welcome the independent review that is coming up.”
Gustavsson said the Matildas had not been distracted as they prepared to face the Brazilians for the first time since their comeback win at the 2019 Women’s World Cup in France.
De Vanna’s allegations are not isolated, with female footballers across the globe detailing similar claims.
Gustavsson — who previously worked with the US women’s national team — said he was encouraged by the willingness of players to speak out but put the onus on coaches to cultivate a healthy environment.
“I try to focus on being the best version of myself and do everything with my staff to create the best high-performance environment possible but with wellbeing at the centre of everything we do,” he said.
“For me that zero-tolerance [approach], we have to live by that. No bullying, no harassment, no sexual abuse and I’ll do everything I can to control my environment in that sense.”
SIA said it would receive and consider any allegations from November 1 to the end of January next year.
Confidential complaints would then be directed — if merited — to the National Sports Tribunal for hearing.
SIA chief executive David Sharpe said he encouraged anyone at any level of football to come forward.
“There has been a lot of public commentary about this matter … but Sport Integrity Australia’s formal independent process to deal with these allegations must remain confidential to protect all parties involved,” he said in a statement.
“I also appreciate that people will want outcomes immediately, however these things take time and must be done properly.”
FA chief executive James Johnson said the independence of the process was vital.
“It was really important that we confronted the issue and took decisive action to put in place an entirely separate and independent process, given that the issues we’re talking about are inherently complex and deeply personal,” he said in a statement.