In the wake of the recent announcement by the Australian Football League (AFL) concluding the Independent Panel Investigation into allegations at Hawthorn Football Club, the AFL Players’ Association (AFLPA) has responded with its own critical analysis of the investigation and subsequent outcomes.

In their statement, the AFLPA echoed the sentiments of the AFL, expressing empathy for those affected by the tumultuous events surrounding the leak of the Binmada Report and the ensuing AFL investigation. The AFLPA reaffirmed its support for its members, their families, and their representatives throughout this process and any future actions they may take.

However, the Association was not shy in its critique of the AFL’s investigative process. Despite acknowledging the complexity of the issue, the AFLPA was unequivocal in its assertion that the investigation was flawed. They questioned the independence of the process, arguing that the AFL retained extensive rights and control over the proceedings. They also noted a lack of clarity regarding the process and potential remedies for the participants.

The crux of the AFLPA’s statement focused on a call to action for the AFL and its clubs, underlining the urgent need for better practices to prevent and respond to racism and other human rights concerns. The AFLPA put forth a Human Rights Policy and Framework as part of their ongoing Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations with the AFL, which aims to enhance collaboration on key issues impacting the industry, including protecting rights and ensuring everyone feels safe.

The Association also noted the AFL’s commitment to several initiatives, including the boosting of Indigenous representation on all 18 AFL club boards and increasing cultural diversity within the AFL umpiring and officiating. However, the AFLPA has requested further clarification from the AFL on timelines, processes, plans, and additional resources committed to these initiatives.

Their statement concluded by highlighting the AFLPA’s provision of a range of support services for its members, including their Mental Health Navigator Service, inviting any member in need of support to reach out.

In sum, while the AFLPA’s response is underpinned by support for the affected players, it signals a robust challenge to the AFL for an industry-wide reform that better protects players’ rights and safety. The Association’s call to arms underscores the need for continual improvement and vigilance, a sentiment which resonates across the sporting world as we collectively strive to make sport a more inclusive and respectful arena for all.