Clarkson refutes AFL racism claims

·3-min read

Alastair Clarkson refutes any wrongdoing, saying he is shocked to be embroiled in a racism furore which threatens his return to AFL coaching.

The futures of Clarkson and Brisbane coach Chris Fagan hinge on the findings of an independent investigation into racism claims described as "sickening" by the federal government.

The AFL will outsource an investigation into the harrowing claims which centre on Clarkson and Fagan's time at Hawthorn.

Clarkson will delay starting his fresh appointment as North Melbourne coach from November 1 as scheduled, while Fagan has taken leave from the Lions.

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

"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."

Brisbane and Fagan "mutually agreed" for the coach to take a leave of absence during the investigation, a Lions statement said.

The AFL said both coaches would be afforded "natural justice" by an independent panel to be created within 24 hours to examine the explosive claims.

One former Hawthorn player alleged he was told by Clarkson to terminate his partner's pregnancy, the ABC reported.

The player said a group of coaches including Clarkson and Fagan also urged him to break up with his partner, the ABC said.

Four-time premiership coach Clarkson was at Hawthorn between 2005 and 2021.

Fagan was a senior assistant coach to Clarkson and general manager of football at the Hawks from 2008 to 2016, before being appointed Brisbane coach in 2017.

Hawthorn earlier this year commissioned an external review into claims of racism, which was delivered to the AFL a fortnight ago.

Clarkson and Fagan were not interviewed as part of that process but Hawthorn's chief executive Justin Reeves said the club must face its past.

"It's heartbreaking, these allegations are extremely disturbing," Reeves told reporters.

"Australia has a culture problem historically ... like so many institutions we have to face our history and our past."

AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan said an independent four-person panel headed by a King's Counsel would investigate.

"These are serious allegations," McLachlan told reporters.

"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."

AFL commissioner Andrew Newbold, who was Hawthorn's president from 2012-16, has taken leave from the commission.

The AFL Players' Association chief executive Paul Marsh said he was "extremely concerned" by the ABC report.

"Clarkson just leaned over me and demanded that I needed to get rid of my unborn child and my partner," the unnamed player told the ABC.

"I was then manipulated and convinced to remove my SIM card from my phone so there was no further contact between my family and me."

The player's partner did not go through with a termination and told the ABC only at the five-month mark of the pregnancy was the player allowed by the club to return to his family.

Former Hawthorn captain Luke Hodge, who played at the club from 2002-17, said the claims were "shocking, terrible".

And federal Minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney described the report as "nothing short of sickening, quite frankly".