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Report finds "systemic racism" at Collingwood Football Club

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An independent investigation has found AFL club Collingwood guilty of racism that is “distinct and egregious” compared with other clubs, and recommended significant changes to eliminate a “toxic” culture.

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The review found racism at Collingwood has resulted in “profound and enduring harm” to First Nations and African players which “affected them, their communities, and set dangerous norms for the public”.

“While claims of racism have been made across the AFL, there is something distinct and egregious about Collingwood’s history,” the report says.

“In the thirty interviews undertaken for this review, there was no clear consensus about what the values of the Collingwood Football Club were.

“Collingwood claims to be guided by four formal values – belonging, commitment, realising potential and caring.

“There is a gap between what Collingwood Football Club says it stands for and what it does.”

The review found there has been a consistent pattern of Collingwood failing to adequately address incidents when they have arisen.

It also found there was an absence of internal avenues for reporting racism in the club until very recently.

“All of this comes back to the leadership of the Collingwood Football Club — particularly its board — and the need for them to set the vision and values of the club and to drive structural change within the organisation,” the report says.

The review found there is a “genuine acknowledgement of past failures and a strong desire to do better”.

Positive steps already taken by Collingwood include the introduction of policies that directly target racism and the appointment of a new CEO who is committed to making changes.

“It needs to be noted and underlined that, in undertaking this review, the club was unflinching in holding up a mirror to itself,” the report says.

The report made 18 recommendations, including urging Collingwood to “implement a framework to ensure that there is accountability and consequences for acts of racism committed by members of the club community”.

It also said the club should “develop a strategy to address and reconcile past acts of racism in a way that is proactive and seeks to reward, not punish, people who speak out against racism”.

The report was commissioned by Collingwood’s board last year after a series of claims made by 2010 premiership player Heritier Lumumba.

The investigation was conducted by Distinguished Professor Larissa Behrendt and Professor Lindon Coombes, from the University of Technology Sydney.

Their report was handed to the club’s board on December 17.

Days later, long-standing president Eddie McGuire announced he will step down at the end of 2021.

While 30 interviews took place during the review, Lumumba did not participate in the investigation.

Lumumba has previously claimed he was nicknamed “chimp” and that a culture of racist behaviour existed during his time at Collingwood, spanning 10 seasons from 2005-2014.

“It is not appropriate to review those allegations without Mr Lumumba’s involvement,” the report said.

“Nothing in this review can be taken as exonerating the Club from any alleged wrongdoing.”

The report’s authors said there needs to be a serious investigation into Lumumba’s claims, with his participation.

-with AAP

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