The Matildas have broken their silence around historic allegations of bullying and toxic culture, with captain Sam Kerr declaring the national team a “safe haven”.
Kerr was one of 15 current Matildas players who defended the culture of the team on Monday, after damning allegations from former star Lisa De Vanna of sexual abuse.
Last week, De Vanna went public with complaints of her unsavoury experiences as part of the Matildas team.
“I have been a part of this team for 12 amazing years, from 15 years old to now,” Kerr said in the player statement.
“Throughout my career the Matildas have been a safe haven for me and allowed me to grow into the player and person I am today.
“I count myself lucky to be a part of this amazing group of athletes and people.”
Since De Vanna’s allegations, no Matildas player had spoken publicly about the situation.
In the statement, the Matildas said the player group had spoken at length about De Vanna’s allegations and that they were all “hurt” by what had occurred.
Football Australia acknowledged De Vanna’s allegations about the past. It said it empathised with her for not feeling comfortable coming forward sooner.
“As a group, we represent the values reflective of Australia and that includes acceptance and inclusivity, regardless of sexuality, ethnicity or culture,” it read.
“It was disappointing to observe conversations inferring the group is not accepting of differences, especially given the diversity that exists within our current leadership group on all those fronts, let alone across the broader team.”
Vice-captain Steph Catley said the Matildas had always been a “second family” to her, having spent more time with the players and staff than her own family at times.
Goalkeeper Mackenzie Arnold echoed Catley’s message, reassuring the family ties and safe space she felt playing with the Matildas for the past decade.
“We stand supportive of athletes who are able to come forward and report instances of inappropriate behaviour in their respective environments, and therefore welcome an independent review into this matter,” Football Australia said.
Football Australia will work with the PFA and Sport Integrity Australia to set up an independent system to promptly handle future complaints of inappropriate behaviour.