Less than a fortnight after the AFL’s diversity manager Ali Fahour quit following a punch that saw him charged with assault, two more of the league’s senior executives have resigned.
AFL boss Gillon McLachlan announced on Friday afternoon that Simon Lethlean – the general manager of football operations – and Richard Simkiss, the general manager of commercial, had stepped down, effective immediately.
“Two men had inappropriate relationships with two younger women who work in the AFL industry,” McLachlan told reporters.
“People have made two significant mistakes and they are being held to account.”
Lethlean issued a statement shortly after the announcement expressing his regret for having “failed” his loved ones.
“I failed my wife, my family, my friends, my organisation and football by making the decision I have … I am deeply sorry for all the hurt and embarrassment I have caused,” he said.
“The relationship should never have happened. As a husband and a leader of this organisation, it is up to me to set the example. What I did was wrong.
“I accept the consequences of my action and the need to step aside from the role and want to apologise to the AFL, the commission, the clubs, the AFL’s partners and all involved in the game.”
Lethlean was responsible for overseeing the league’s women’s competition, AFLW, which launched to great success in 2017.
He will be replaced by the league’s general manager of game development, and legal counsel, Andrew Dillon, on “an interim basis”.
Simkiss’ responsibilities will be taken over by general manager of growth, digital and audiences, Darren Birch, for the time being.
McLachlan said “these two men own the decisions”, ending what had been “a very tough week” for the league.
“They were quite separate matters, but have caused distress and concern to a number of people,” he said.
“Simon and Richard have both been honest and forthright to me, and to their credit, owned their mistakes and do not want the work of the AFL to be impacted by their actions.
“I expect my executives are role models and set a standard of behaviour for the rest of the organisation. They are judged, as they should be, to a higher standard.”
McLachlan, who said he was “disappointed” in the revelations, added that there was “more women than ever working in the industry”.
He said the decision of Lethlean and Simkiss to step down was “commendable”.
“I want a diverse and inclusive culture where employees are treated respectfully and fairly at all levels. It must be backed up with action and change,” he said.
Only last year, McLachlan ordered a review of the AFL’s respect and responsibility policy.
It was overseen by Kate Jenkins, sex discrimination commissioner at the Australian Human Rights Commission, and was reportedly delivered to the AFL Commission in June.