‘Endless examples’: Gill responds as book rocks AFL to its core

AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan has responded to claims of a toxic culture across the league, insisting the organisation does not tolerate bullying or harassment in the workplace.

The Australian reported this week at least 14 employees, including one male, have left AFL House, AFL state bodies and AFL clubs after complaining about bullying, poor behaviour or harassment over the past nine years, with 11 signing confidentiality agreements.

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Those reports come in the wake of Herald Sun journalist Michael Warner’s book ‘The Boys’ Club’, which details claims from current and former AFL staff about an “unsafe” workplace.

Speaking on 3AW on Friday, McLachlan said he was open to meeting with those who left the league feeling mistreated and disenchanted.

He also stressed that, to his knowledge, no non disclosure agreements (NDA’s) had been signed during his time as CEO of the league.

“I have no knowledge of NDA’s and we don’t use non disclosures or other things to try and silence victims or complaints. We take them all seriously,” he said.

“I’ve gone back since my time as chief executive to say that. Now, what is also referred to when people leave the organisation, which is hundreds through various means, there is standard confidentiality clauses and non disparagement clauses like there are in all organisations.

“What I’d say is if they are in some ways, either the people who‘ve been a complainant later on feel they’re a constraint to talking about their experience at the AFL, they shouldn’t be and we’ll look at about the nuance of those agreements.”

McLachlan responded to the claims.Source:Getty Images

In one passage of Warner’s book, a woman details a time when she was locked in an AFL House meeting room by her boss, who vented his anger towards her and had thrown a pen at her head, later telling The Australian she felt “suicidal” and was diagnosed with medical anxiety after her experience in the job.

The book details that the male boss in question retained his job despite a separate employee complaining about his bullying behaviour.

It’s one of a series of passages in the book that led to Hawthorn president Jeff Kennett calling for an urgent review into the league’s administration and urging all other club presidents and the AFL Commission to take action.

“There are endless examples of bullying, there are inconsistent applications of the AFL‘s policies, there is a lack of accountability,” he said.

“But perhaps worst of all is the appalling treatment of many female employees over many years and because the AFL answers to no-one, it is very much a law unto itself.”

Hawthorn President Jeff Kennett (Picture: NCA NewsWire / Andrew Henshaw)Source:News Corp Australia

Richmond president Peggy O’Neal is another who reacted strongly to the reports.

“I am (concerned about the reports), I think more so if reports like that were coming out about my club, I‘d want to get to the bottom of it. I’d want to know how it was not made public or wasn’t transparent,” she told ABC Radio.

“I think it‘s a very big concern that in a time where we want the sport to be open and welcoming to everyone, that there are women who allegedly have been treated poorly.

“And if I were the AFL Commission, I would want to get to the bottom as quickly as possible and find out how it was ignored for so long.”

McLachlan said that the AFL had improved year on year in its workplace culture and would continue to take any allegations seriously.

“What I’d say is that we take very seriously our commitment to building a safe environment and a culture of inclusion,” he said.

“And I feel we’ve been hard on this and our environment has changed and improved as it does in every organisation year on year.

“We’ve engaged in surveys with our people regularly and they tell us it’s generally a great place to work. However, incidents happen. It’s not just about me or Jeff, it’s about any woman that has a poor experience and doesn’t feel like they can talk is one too many. We take that seriously. And we will continue to try and be better because that’s our responsibility.”

Originally published asAFL boss responds to toxic workplace claims

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