Alastair Clarkson releases statement amid 'serious' allegations

·Sports Editor
·4-min read
Alastair Clarkson, pictured here speaks to the media after being appointed North Melbourne coach.
Alastair Clarkson speaks to the media after being appointed North Melbourne coach. (Photo by Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)

Alastair Clarkson has addressed serious allegations levelled against him during his tenure as head coach at Hawthorn, refuting "any allegation of wrongdoing or misconduct".

'TERRIBLE': Luke Hodge addresses allegations against Hawthorn

'NOT GOOD': Furore over 'uncomfortable' scenes at Brownlow Medal

Three Indigenous families involved at Hawthorn during Clarkson's time as coach between 2005 and 2021 told the ABC in a report released on Wednesday that they were allegedly bullied and told to choose between their football careers and their families.

Earlier this year, Hawthorn commissioned an external review into claims of racism at the club during Clarkson's tenure as coach.

The external review document was given to Hawthorn hierarchy and the AFL's integrity unit a fortnight ago.

According to the ABC report, the document includes allegations of key Hawthorn figures demanding the separation of young Indigenous players from their partners.

The report claims one couple was pressured to terminate a pregnancy for the sake of the player's career.

One former player claimed a group of coaches including Clarkson and current Brisbane coach Chris Fagan - a senior assistant at Hawthorn at the time - urged to have his partner's pregnancy terminated, break up with his partner, and move into the home of an assistant coach.

Fagan has since mutually agreed to take a leave of absence from the Lions, while North Melbourne said on Wednesday that Clarkson won't commence his role at the club until the investigation is complete.

Alastair Clarkson and Chris Fagan, pictured here during a Hawthorn game in 2015.
Alastair Clarkson and Chris Fagan look on during a Hawthorn game in 2015. (Photo by Adam Trafford/AFL Media/Getty Images)

“The health, care and welfare of our players, staff and their families were always my highest priorities during my time at Hawthorn Football Club," Clarkson said in a statement on Wednesday evening.

“I was therefore shocked by the extremely serious allegations reported in the media earlier today. I was not interviewed by the authors of the report commissioned by the club, and nor have I been provided with a copy of the report.

“I was not afforded any due process and I refute any allegation of wrongdoing or misconduct and look forward to the opportunity to be heard as part of the AFL external investigation.

“I have today contacted the president of North Melbourne Football Club and we have mutually agreed that I will step back from my responsibilities at the club so I can fully cooperate in the investigation.”

North Melbourne said in a statement they were aware of “serious historical allegations made against individuals who worked at the Hawthorn Football Club, including incoming North Melbourne coach Alastair Clarkson”.

“The matters raised are now with the AFL’s integrity unit and Alastair welcomes the opportunity to co-operate with any investigation relating to the claims,” the club said.

“Alastair was due to commence work with North Melbourne on November 1 however he will delay the start of his tenure to allow time to fully participate in the investigation.”

“Given the matters raised are confidential and the investigation is ongoing, the club will not provide any further comment at this time.”

Clarkson was only appointed head coach of the Kangaroos last month on a five-year deal beginning in November, believed to be worth $5 million.

Fagan was a senior assistant coach and general manager of football at Hawthorn from 2008-16 before being appointed Lions head coach in 2017.

AFL orders independent investigation into claims

Addressing the allegations on Wednesday, AFL boss Gillon McLachlan said the league will outsource an investigation into the claims.

McLachlan said Clarkson and Fagan will be afforded "natural justice" by an independent panel.

"These are serious allegations," McLachlan told reporters on Wednesday.

"And it's important that we treat them appropriately whilst also ensuring the formal process provides support to those impacted and also natural justice to those people who are accused.

AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan, pictured here speaking to the media in Melbourne.
AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan speaks to the media in Melbourne. (Photo by Morgan Hancock/AFL Photos/via Getty Images)

"This is a process that it's appropriate that it is held independent of the normal AFL integrity department response.

"We need to run a proper investigation to get to the bottom of it ... out of respect to those making the allegations and out of respect to those being accused."

McLachlan said the four-person panel would be appointed within 24 hours.

Hawthorn said the review "raised disturbing historical allegations".

"While the process indicated the current environment at the club is culturally safe, it also recommended that some of the club's current First Nations training and development programs should continue to be strengthened", the club said in a statement.

with AAP

Click here to sign up to our newsletter for all the latest and breaking stories from Australia and around the world.