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Matildas defend team environment after abuse allegations

SYDNEY : Australia's Matildas have issued a statement defending the culture of the national women's soccer set-up after former international striker Lisa De Vanna made allegations of sexual assault, harassment, bullying and grooming.

De Vanna's statement last week that she had witnessed women abusing younger female players over her two decades with the Matildas was followed by other allegations from former players in the media.

A statement from the currently contracted players on Monday said they acknowledged the "seriousness of Lisa's allegations about the past" and "empathised" with her feeling unable to report the incidents earlier.

"Today we have a strong professional, inclusive and supportive culture that does not condone any of the behaviour mentioned within the numerous media articles about historical incidents," the statement read.

"We represent the values reflective of Australia and that includes acceptance and inclusivity, regardless of sexuality, ethnicity or culture. It was disappointing to observe conversations inferring the group is not accepting of differences."

De Vanna's allegations came against the background of allegations of misconduct against a male coach in North America's National Women's Soccer League (NWSL), which triggered investigations from FIFA and U.S. Soccer.

Monday's statement also included supportive personal messages from 15 current Australian internationals, including captain Sam Kerr.

"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," the striker said.

Football Australia last week announced an independent complaints procedure run by government agency Sport Integrity Australia would be put in place to investigate allegations from former players and staff.

"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," the Matilda's statement concluded.

(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Lincoln Feast.)

Source: Reuters


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