Secret report uncovers Collingwood’s ‘systemic racism’
A secret report has found there is "systemic racism within the Collingwood Football Club that must be addressed if things are to change".
The damning 35-page independent report - kept under wraps since being tabled with the Magpies board in December, just days after president Eddie McGuire announced his shock decision to vacate the job at the end of this season - says the club's response to repeated incidents of racism "has been at best ineffective, or at worst exacerbated the impact".
"There is a gap between what Collingwood Football Club says it stands for and what it does," the report, obtained by the Herald Sun, says.
"While claims of racism have been made across the AFL, there is something distinct and egregious about Collingwood's history."
In a veiled swipe at the club's governance, the report adds: "There is a culture of individuals, if not quite being bigger than the club, then at least having an unhealthy degree of influence over club culture."
The review was commissioned following a series of claims made by 2010 premiership player Heritier Lumumba.
It was conducted by Distinguished Professor Larissa Behrendt and Professor Lindon Coombes, both from the University of Technology in Sydney, who completed 30 interviews.
The report said it was not appropriate to review Lumumba's allegations because he did not wish to engage in the process, but said a separate probe into his claims was also warranted.
"Individuals have paid a high cost for speaking out against racism at the club," the report said. "What is clear is that racism at the club has resulted in profound and enduring harm to First Nations and African players. The racism affected them, their communities, and set dangerous norms for the public."
The report found there was a perception that lead some to conclude "Collingwood has become synonymous with off-field and on-field racism in Australian sport".
"As one person we spoke to said: 'If you look at every high-profile incident of racism in the game, Collingwood is there somewhere'."
Collingwood received the "Do Better - Independent review into Collingwood Football Club's responses to incidents of racism and cultural safety in the workplace" report on December 17.
"A consistent pattern with the Collingwood Football Club is what has been seen as its failure to adequately address incidents when they have arisen," it said.
The review found Collingwood "takes a 'guns pointing out' or 'double down' approach rather than taking the lead in investigating and addressing complaints or issues raised.
"This has also meant that Collingwood's response has often been perceived as one where claims of racism are dealt with in terms of damage control and protecting the brand, rather than seeking to address issues and make change," it said.
"This has meant people who felt aggrieved within the club felt they were not being heard. 'It's hard to be a Collingwood supporter' was the reflection of several Indigenous fans of the club who struggled with the club's lack of leadership on issues of racism."
The damning report also found there was an "absence of clear and trusted avenues through which complaints could be made".
"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."
It listed a series of high-profile racist incidents linked to the club, from Carlton great Syd Jackson being booed by fans in the 1970 Grand Final, to Nicky Winmar lifting his jumper and pointing to his skin in response to racist slurs in 1993, to Collingwood premiership player Heritier Lumumba nicknamed "chimp" at Collingwood from 2005.
It also referenced president Eddie McGuire joking on his radio show that Sydney star Adam Goodes should be used to promote a King Kong musical, after he had been called an "ape" by a young fan.
The report, which made 18 recommendations, said Lumumba's claims of racism at the club had thrown "a spotlight over the internal processes and structures that this review is tasked to look at".
It acknowledged "important and positive steps have been taken by the club in the past few years".
"This has included the appointment of a First Nations person to the board, the introduction of new policies that more directly target racism and the appointment of a new CEO who has a commitment to making changes," the report said.
"It needs to be noted and underlined that, in undertaking this review, the club was unflinching in holding up a mirror to itself.
"It was a brave first step that few would have the courage to take and shows the seriousness with which the club takes the issue."
But the report found: "It is clear that players and fans have experienced incidents of racism and that Collingwood's response to these incidents has been at best ineffective, or at worst exacerbated the impact of the racist incidents.
"The continual failures in this regard speak to a systemic racism within the Collingwood Football Club that must be addressed if things are to change."
The retiring McGuire told members in December that leading the fight against racism and developing facilities at the Holden Centre and Victoria Park were among his priorities in his final season.
In December, Lumumba called on Collingwood's board to release the report.
"If they truly believe in transparency, CFC should make the report public," Lumumba posted on Twitter.
In a statement to the Herald Sun at the time, Collingwood said board members would consider the report's findings and provide an update in the New Year.
Originally published as Secret report uncovers Collingwood's 'systemic racism'