Alastair Clarkson has launched an extraordinary broadside at the AFL investigation into allegations of racism levelled at himself, Brisbane Lions coach Chris Fagan and former Hawthorn official Jason Burt, which remains ongoing eight months after it began. Now the coach of North Melbourne, Clarkson said it was unfair that he, Fagan and Burt hadn't yet been given an opportunity to present their evidence, and also said the Hawthorn Football Club ought to be investigated as well.
Clarkson's statement came after the lead investigator, Bernard Quinn KC, gave a list of reasons as to why the investigation was taking so long in an interview with The Age on Wednesday. Quinn said the trio had requested certain documents from Hawthorn and were unwilling to give evidence until they had been received - however those documents were subject to the former Hawthorn players who made the allegations raising concerns about those documents containing 'personal, sensitive or private information' being handed over to the trio.
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In a surprising move, Clarkson described the Hawthorn Football Club as the 'catalyst' for the investigation, suggesting that the club itself was not subject to scrutiny as part of the investigation. Clarkson also claimed the 'damage has been done', criticising Quinn for what he said was a breach of confidentiality by disclosing publicly why the investigation was taking so long.
“There is one particular party that is the catalyst for all this that has not been investigated at all their governance and conduct in this whole thing - the Hawthorn Football Club - just shameful,” Clarkson said. “Let’s do an investigation on them and their practices and see how they go.”
The saga was sparked after a Hawthorn-led investigation in 2022 was handed to the AFL integrity unit without giving Clarkson, Fagan or Burt - all of whom had since moved on from the club - a chance to respond to it. All three have denied the allegations put forward which sparked the long-running probe.
Clarkson says he will see out the investigation process, but says he has little faith in the integrity of the AFL's pursuit of the claims made against him. The trio were accused of, and deny, accusation of historical racism during their tenure with the Hawks from 2005 onwards.
"The Hawthorn Football Club, has been just shameful"@NMFCOfficial Coach Alastair Clarkson has called for an investigation into the @HawthornFC and its practices, as a probe into historic racial allegations continues.
The allegations surround Clarkson, @brisbanelions Coach and… pic.twitter.com/fuIBAopKfA
— 10 News First Melbourne (@10NewsFirstMelb) May 11, 2023
“The guy who actually establishes the protocol around confidentiality actually breaches [it],” Clarkson alleged. “The damage is done, reputations have been scarred and we’ve got to somehow just claw our reputations back through this whole process.
“And all we want is a fair platform to be able to do that. Once we get that opportunity, then we’ll let the judge decide. That will either be a court of law or the court of public opinion.
“We’ve waited for eight months to get some sort of process going in terms of what you call procedural fairness in terms of the legal game, and the procedural fairness offered to myself, ‘Fages’ and Jason has been next to zero and that’s particularly frustrating.”
Hawthorn issues statement after Alastair Clarkson broadside
The Hawthorn Football Club later released a statement regarding Clarkson's comments, saying the club had complied with all requests relating to the investigation and would continue to do so. They also acknowledged that the process had been 'frustrating' for all involved.
"Hawthorn continues to cooperate fully with the AFL and the independent panel while the investigation continues," the statement read. "We completely understand that this process, and the speed at which it has been conducted, has been frustrating for everyone involved.
"We, like everyone, want to see this matter resolved quickly and fairly in the best interests of all. At every step of this process the club has complied with our obligations under AFL integrity rules and confidentiality arrangements."
AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan, who is stepping down later this year to be succeeded by Andrew Dillon, had been due to leave the sport late last year before agreeing to stay on in order to see the investigation out. It remains to be seen whether it will be completed by the time he departs.
Quinn stressed no conditions had been placed on mediation, contrary to media reports over the weekend. Those reports prompted Fagan, who is coaching the Brisbane Lions, to release a statement on Sunday saying he would only agree to mediation "in good faith".
Clarkson did not indicate if he wished to participate in any proposed mediation. "All these events that happen, just makes it a circus," Clarkson said.
"Someone just needs to cut through it all and just take ownership of the whole process, whether that's from within the Hawthorn Football Club or the AFL. Someone from either one of those two bodies needs to take ownership of just what's happened in terms of the governance and conduct of this whole process and allow us the fair opportunity to be able to tell our story."
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