• Eddie McGuire has defended his Club's track record. (Supplied)Source: Supplied
An internal report into the Collingwood Football Club that has identified a toxic culture and systemic racism has been leaked to the media.
Rachael Hocking

1 Feb 2021 - 8:14 PM  UPDATED 1 Feb 2021 - 8:30 PM

A damning report outlining a toxic culture and systemic racism at the Collingwood Football Club, with "profound and enduring harm to First Nations and African players", has provided a blueprint for structural change.

The leaked report, led by Eualaya and Kamilaroi woman, Distinguished Professor Larissa Behrendt and titled "Do Better", didn't hold back on its assessment of the club's track record with issues of racism, noting there was "something distinct and egregious about Collingwood’s history". 

"There is a gap between what Collingwood Football Club says it stands for and what it does," the report reads. 

"A selected short list of high-profile incidents is compelling and speaks to systemic racism of the kind that means the concerted efforts of individuals are not able to be translated into Club-wide change." 

Although the report focuses on the club's responses rather than individual incidents, it acknowledged the long-standing allegations made by former player Héritier Lumumba as the catalyst for the review. 

The authors of the report said they understood Mr Lumumba's decision to not be involved and suggested a separate investigation into his experience with the club should be carried out. 

Speaking to the club's handling of complaints of racism, the report said: "Collingwood is perceived as being defensive, doubling down and denying allegations instead of taking an active and proactive approach internally." 

Many commentators remarked that the findings "vindicated" Mr Lumumba, who not only called-out a racist culture at the club, but blasted its management and the media for gaslighting him in the aftermath. 

Author and historian, Dr Tony Birch, who has provided support to Mr Lumumba in the wake of the allegations, said the report's calls for truth-telling and "addressing the past" was vital for the club and wider AFL in overcoming entrenched racism. 

"People need to understand the legacy of racism that these young men and women bring with them to the game," he said. 

"It pains me to think of what [Mr Lumumba] suffered, considering the legacy of slavery that his people come out of... We need to tell the truth about not only what he suffered, but the truth of his relationships between his community, and notions of colonialism." 

Recommendations push for a cultural shift

Among the report's 18 recommendations was a push for stronger accountability and consequences when racism occurs.

These included the suggestion that the club aim for a higher standard of support for its players as outlined in international human rights documents, instead of Australia's "general anti-discrimination legislation". 

The report also found that the club's antiracism policies weren't in place until recently, and that a shift towards "proactive, not reactive" responses was required when racism occurred. 

Changes to recruitment policies were also highlighted, to ensure First Nations and people of colour could move into "post-playing positions within the Club and AFL, particularly coaching".

Notably, the report said there was a need to ensure those who speak out against racism are not punished and that the establishment of an Expert Group on Anti-Racism was needed to oversee the proposed changes.

Club President doubles down

The leaking of the review, which does single out individuals, comes more than a month after it was tabled to the Collingwood leadership team.

Speaking at a press-conference on Monday, Collingwood President Eddie McGuire failed to address questions about why the report was initially held from the public and instead defended the club's track record. 

“It’s a day of pride. People have to get past the idea of tearing down people, tearing down institutions who are prepared to look within themselves to make the hard decisions and make things different," he said.

"We’re not a racist club. We’re a club that tries to do well."

In December, Mr McGuire announced he would be stepping down at the end of the 2021 season, but there are now calls on social media for him to resign immediately. 

Mr McGuire has a chequered history which includes a racist remark in the 2013 AFL season where he suggested Adam Goodes be used to promote the musical King Kong.

Mr Lumumba has also repeatedly claimed he was punished for speaking out against Mr McGuire's racist comments. 

Dr Birch said while individual responsibility was important, it needed to be addressed alongside a deep, cultural shift.

“The accountability can’t be vague and general. The accountability has to be quite specific and directed to people in positions of power,” he said. 

"The next few weeks and months are going to be vital. This is going to be a real test of the Code, and real test of the Clubs and hierarchy. 

"And if they don’t act with honesty and act with integrity, they will suffer greatly because of this."

Take It Blak podcast - EPISODE 12 Héritier Lumumba & the Pies

Co hosts Rachael Hocking and Yokayi Footy's Bianca Hunt are joined by The Feed's Ahmed Yussuf to discuss media diversity, 'the boy's club' that makes up sport commentary in Australia and the ongoing Collingwood Football Club racism allegations - including an interview with former player Héritier Lumumba.