Sport Integrity Australia and Football Australia have today confirmed the details of an independent complaints and reports handling, investigation, and disciplinary framework.
Under the framework, Sport Integrity Australia will consider complaints and reports on a range of allegations including abuse, bullying, child abuse, child grooming, endangering the safety of a child, harassment, sexual misconduct, unlawful discrimination, victimisation, and vilification at the elite levels of Australian football.
Sport Integrity Australia will independently receive, assess and manage complaints and reports relating to Football Australia’s National Teams and Leagues (including the men’s and women’s national teams, the A-League, W-League and the Y-League).
Whilst there has been media and social media commentary on this complex issue, Sport Integrity Australia and Football Australia encourage the Australian football community to utilise this confidential process to submit matters to be considered independently of Football Australia.
Sport Integrity Australia will receive submissions from 1 November 2021 through to 31 January 2022. Any person aware of a potential policy breach is encouraged to make a submission during this reporting window.
The National Sports Tribunal will hear any disputes that arise from the sanction and resolution process.
Sport Integrity Australia CEO David Sharpe said it was important that the process was independent of Football Australia and that all participants had an opportunity to have their voices heard.
“Our priority is for sport to be a safe, supportive environment for all participants. This process gives people an opportunity to speak up about their experiences and be heard,” Mr Sharpe said.
“Importantly, through this process we can address issues being raised to ensure that together with sports, we build safer environments in future.”
He also reiterated the need for confidentiality throughout the process to protect the rights of complainants and respondents to a fair process.
“There has been a lot of public commentary about this matter. The media play a vital role in highlighting these issues so they can be addressed, but Sport Integrity Australia’s formal independent process to deal with these allegations must remain confidential to protect all parties involved.
“The wellbeing of everyone engaging in this process is our priority, and support mechanisms will play a vital role. All parties have the right to be heard through an independent and fair process, before judgement is passed by the public. As such we will not provide any public commentary on matters through this process and urge all participants to do the same.
“I also appreciate that people will want outcomes immediately, however these things take time and must be done properly. The timeframes will depend on the number of complaints we receive, the complexity of the issues reported and the availability of people to participate to ensure procedural fairness.”
Football Australia CEO James Johnson said the organisation is committed to the process and to safe, inclusive environments for all footballers and staff.
“Organised Australian football has existed for over 100 years, and this is the first time our game has done this. It’s a step which takes us into the future of sports governance, by establishing a new framework which exemplifies the way issues like abuse, bullying and harassment can and should be managed across all sporting codes,” Mr Johnson said.
“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.
“The impartiality of the process and ability for anyone to make a submission are key components in making sure matters are raised with and able to be considered by Sport Integrity Australia - it’s why we initiated discussions with them. By effectively mandating a system that provides for clear separation and independence, the new framework draws a line in the sand for football and creates a blueprint for all sporting codes in the way matters of this kind should be managed.
“The process with Sport Integrity Australia gives us the confidence that these matters can be dealt with appropriately and helps us create an environment which fosters more positive behaviours in Australian football going forward. It provides us with a platform to continue with our ambitious plans to grow the game and deliver football to the millions of people across the country that enjoy and love our great sport,” Mr Johnson said.
Further information on the complaint process is available here.