Show caption A leaked report commissioned by the AFL revealed complaints made by girls and women in umpiring who allegedly experienced sexual harassment. Photograph: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images AFL AFL accepts it could have made public its report on female umpire abuse Leaked report contained allegations of sexual harassment
League wanted to take private steps to remedy problematic culture Guardian sport Tue 3 May 2022 07.02 BST Share on Facebook
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The AFL has acknowledged it “could have” publicly shared a leaked report detailing what it called “unacceptable experiences” of sexual harassment alleged by female umpires across Australia.
Acting chief executive, Kylie Rogers, has written to stakeholders amid the fallout of the now-public report to explain that, despite receiving it in late 2021, the AFL had chosen not to publish it in favour of taking private steps to remedy the problematic culture surrounding women and girls in umpiring.
The AFL-commissioned study was carried out by the University of Sydney, who conducted focus groups and interviews involving 27 umpires of diverse ages and ethnicities to better understand the low take-up numbers of women and girls in umpiring despite the exponential rise in their participation in playing the game.
The subsequent report – titled Girls and women in Australian football umpiring: understanding registration, participation and retention – included claims that a male colleague had made comments about a female umpire’s breasts and an allegation of unsolicited nude photos and inappropriate touching during games.
The AFL received the report, which featured 11 key recommendations, in August 2021 but it was only made public by News Corp on Monday.
“While the report was widely distributed across AFL and academic circles and was provided to those umpires who took part, it had not been publicly released as we focused on the recommendations and developing policies and initiatives based on the report’s findings and the AFL accepts that we could have shared the report publicly while that policy development process was under way,” Rogers wrote to the AFL clubs, states, community leagues and umpire associations.
On Monday the author of the report, former AFLW field umpire and researcher Victoria Rawlings, told The Age “the AFL has some responsibility” to make girls and women feel safe and welcome as umpires.
Rogers, in her letter, encouraged “any of the aggrieved umpires” to report their complaints to the AFL integrity and security team. “I want to make clear on behalf of the AFL that those incidents and those behaviours are wholly unacceptable,” she wrote.
She also referenced a new Women and Girls Game Development Action Plan, which is set to go to the AFL Commission for approval and “is about ensuring that we help leagues and clubs from the community level to the talent pathways and through to the elite game and ensure they have the policies, procedures and promotion to encourage more women and girls into football”.