Matildas break silence over De Vanna claims, defend ‘professional’ team culture

The Matildas have broken their silence around the allegations of historical abuse made by Lisa De Vanna, welcoming a thorough review into her claims but defending the current culture of the team as “professional, inclusive and supportive”.

Australia’s second highest goalscorer last week suggested she suffered sexual harassment, indecent assault, grooming and bullying from senior players throughout her career with incidents since 2001 when she was part of the Young Matildas side.

De Vanna’s revelations have prompted Football Australia to set up an independent system for complaints handling through Sport Integrity Australia, as well as other former players to come out and speak of their own unsavoury experiences in football.

No current player had spoken publicly about the situation until early on Monday morning, when Football Australia released a statement on behalf of the team, which is due to arrive in the country in the coming days for two scheduled friendly matches against Brazil in Sydney.

In addition, 14 players – including captain Sam Kerr – provided their own personal statements, with all endorsing the team’s environment as safe, accepting and welcoming.

The current crop of Matildas have issued a collective statement following historical abuse allegations by former national team great Lisa De Vanna.Credit:Getty Images

The Matildas said in the group statement that players had spoken at length about De Vanna’s allegations and that all were “hurt” by what has occurred since.

“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 statement reads.

“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. There must also be a trusted process to deal with these complaints.

“We all – from our most capped players to our most recently capped – would like to reassure to our fans, family and friends that today we have a strong professional, inclusive and supportive culture that does not condone any of the behaviour mentioned within the numerous media articles about historical incidents.

‘We hold this team close to our hearts and for many, this team has been a safe haven.’

“Our strong leadership ensures our cultural norms are appropriate for today’s professional sporting environment.”

The Matildas said they were disappointed at some conversations which had inferred the playing group was not accepting of “differences”, pointing to the diversity within their ranks.

“We would also like to reiterate the professional standards that surround the current team today. Women’s football has dramatically grown in recent years and so has our professionalism and standards,” they said.

“As a team, we have spoken at length about the allegations and are all hurt by what has occurred. We hold this team close to our hearts and for many, this team has been a safe haven. It has given us strength and purpose throughout our careers.

“We are together like a family in this, from our oldest to our youngest player, and the difficulties we’ve faced in the last week have only made us stronger as a group.

“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.”

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