Soccer pledges independent abuse probe

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Australia's sporting watchdog says nothing can be "swept under the carpet" by investigations into any formal claims of sexual abuse from women's soccer great Lisa De Vanna.

De Vanna, a former Matildas striker, alleges she suffered same-sex sexual harassment, abuse and bullying during her decorated 150-game international career.

Her former teammate and W-League stalwart Rhali Dobson also alleges she was a target of sexual harassment in her career.

Football Australia (FA) is calling on any player, retired or current, to make formal complaints.

FA chief executive James Johnson says any such complaint will be handled by Sport Integrity Australia (SIA) and not football's governing body.

"This will ensure that matters like those raised by Lisa and Rhali are dealt with appropriately and individuals have the right support around them in an independent way," Johnson said in a video statement.

"We must acknowledge that at the centre of this, we have two players who have shown great courage to speak about and to share their personal experiences.

"Lisa and Rhali, we see you and we hear you."

De Vanna, Australia's second-highest goalscorer in senior internationals, alleged abuse dating back to 2001 when she joined the Young Matildas squad as a 17-year-old.

De Vanna said she had been sexually harassed, bullied and ostracised because of her reactions to such incidents.

SIA chief executive David Sharpe said it was vital any complaints be handled outside of the sport.

"I welcome the proactive approach from FA to address these issues independently," Sharpe said in a statement.

"Having an independent body to hear the complaints is critical to giving athletes and staff confidence that their concerns will be heard openly and that they will be treated fairly.

"Nothing can be swept under the carpet."

SIA will receive, assess and manage any complaints with the National Sports Tribunal having jurisdiction to hear any disputes.

The tribunal's chief executive officer John Boultbee said the organisation was "the ultimate appeal body", guaranteeing an independent process.

De Vanna's explosive allegations were met with concern from Australia's soccer players' union, Professional Footballers Australia (PFA.

"We recognise that the decision to speak publicly would not have been made lightly," the PFA's co-chief executives Beau Busch and Kathryn Gill said in a statement.

"It is critical that the sport provides a safe and inclusive workplace and, importantly, the players are supported to come forward."

De Vanna and Dobson are the latest top Australian sportswomen to go public with allegations of a toxic culture in their sport.

A Swimming Australia investigation is ongoing into claims of an abusive culture which was triggered by dual Olympic medallist Maddie Groves' allegations of misogyny in the sport.

Australia's women's hockey players, past and present, last year alleged body shaming among abusive practices at their elite level.

Hockey Australia's president, chief executive, women's head coach and women's high performance director resigned after an independent investigation.

And SIA played a key role in facilitating an investigation into gymnastics by the Australian Human Rights Commission.

The commission found the sport had enabled a culture of abuse, predominantly against young women.

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