AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan has praised Collingwood’s “courageous” decision to commission an internal report into racism at the club.
McLachlan said he was disappointed at the tone of the conversation about the release of the report, which has largely focussed on Eddie McGuire’s press conference on Monday, in which he called it a “historic and proud day” for the club.
While saying he disagreed with McGuire’s choice of words, McLachlan said he supported McGuire’s commitment to enacting the change laid out in the report.
“I’ve spoken to Ed and asked him some questions,” McLachlan said.
“I would have articulated things differently. I would have used a different word. I thought that it was more sobering and confronting.
“And I think that Ed understands that position, and probably agrees with that.
“I know from the conversation that I had with Ed that he’s committed to taking the club forward and implementing the recommendations.
“That’s where we need to focus the discussion – on holding the board and others to account in delivering on the recommendations, rather than looking back to the execution.”
In standing by McGuire, McLachlan said that tackling racism in football was not just an issue for one individual to face, but rather the entire industry.
“[McGuire] was clear to me that he was looking forward and he was proud that they were addressing their past, and there was a series of recommendations to take them forward to do better that were endorsed by the board,” he said.
“The other part about this conversation is that it is going to require a whole football club to deliver on this. This is a serious undertaking that the Collingwood Football Club board has embarked on.
“It’s going to require the whole board, the whole club, the footy department. It makes commitments on behalf of its supporters.
“This has never been about an individual. It needs to be a whole of club approach, and frankly, a whole of industry approach there.”
McGuire’s press conference has been widely criticised, most notably by former Collingwood player Héritier Lumumba, whose allegations of racism at the club were a driving factor in the commissioning of the report.
Lumumba said the club’s response was “a clear case of cowardice”, and accused it of being “completely tone deaf to where the world is at right now”.
But McLachlan said he had hoped the discussion would have been more about the affirmative action Collingwood was taking, rather than the club’s public response.
“I’m disappointed that the focus today was the way that the report was talked to, rather than the report itself,” he said.
“Because that’s the important piece, that there is a report that goes to the history of racism in the Collingwood Football Club, and it has 18 recommendations that are going to drive that club going forward.
“The board is committed to embracing it, and that’s what we should be talking about today.”