AFL Players’ Association to hit back if mistruths told about support for members

The AFL Players’ Association say they will no longer be strictly bound by confidentiality if they are accused in the media by past players, their families or their representative of not supporting a former player or responding to their requests for help.

Instead, if they consider any accusation aired publicly not to be true, they have told their members in an email, they will be prepared to correct the misinformation, rather than adhering to their previous policy of not commenting or responding.

AFL chief Gillon McLachlan (left) and AFLPA chief Paul Marsh.Credit:Getty Images

The players’ association said the change in policy was required to ensure confidence is maintained in the support system available for past players. The organisation has previously not confirmed, denied or gone into any detail when asked if specific members had accessed their support.

The missive shows the players’ association, which has been under fire in some quarters for its alleged lack of support for individuals over the past year, has become increasingly frustrated at public attacks on its programs designed to support members. The frustration has been exacerbated by the association’s policy of not correcting the record publicly.

In the email seen by The Age with the subject line “We’re changing the way we handle misinformation”, AFLPA CEO Paul Marsh wrote:

“We have seen a number of instances where false information has been provided to media about players who have had little, or no, support from the AFLPA. These instances are often misleading and/or completely false. We have also seen instances of other people doing so on behalf of players.

“From now on, when members, their families or their representatives make incorrect allegations against the AFLA that suggest we haven’t provided adequate assistance to specific individuals in the public domain, we will correct that misinformation.”

However, the players’ association made it clear that it intended to maintain the confidentiality critical to those seeking support and would not mention specifics of the support offered, even when correcting the record.

“It’s important to note we will still maintain confidentiality of the type and details of assistance provided, but will clear up whether support, in general, has been provided,” Marsh wrote. “This is an important change and one we don’t make lightly. We believe it is critical for protecting the AFLPA’s ability to do it’s important work.”

The AFL Players Association has invested $4 million into programs to support players and expect to increase the amount made available to support their alumni when the next collective bargaining agreement is concluded.

A source said they are under no illusion that the level of support does not cover every contingency or issue a player faces, but they want to ensure past players are confident to raise their issues with the association.

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