This is not the first time that I have offered my resignation to David Evans and the Board since the beginning of February.
As it became clear to me the extent of damage arising from the supplement program at Essendon in 2012 - and in particular the lack of proper processes surrounding that program - I immediately offered my resignation, which at that time was not accepted.
To those who think I should have stood down immediately, while I fully understand and as my offer of resignation showed I had a similar first instinct, in the circumstances the appropriate course of action and the one I took was to take responsibility and work closely with David Evans and the Board in setting a path forward for the Club.
I attended the meeting at the AFL to ask for the investigation, made contact with ASADA to self report and subsequently accompanied David Evans to Canberra to meet with ASADA. I then began the process of talking to our staff, players and their parents, corporate partners, coterie groups and members about the issues and seriousness of the impending investigation.
We threw ourselves into fully participating with the external inquiries, the legal issues that have arisen, the need for external medical and pharmacological advice, the stresses and worries of the playing group and their families, and the pressures on the hard working administrative staff.
As I said my task was to work with David Evans, the Board and staff to see the Club through this crisis to a point of stability. Now is the right time for my resignation.
I supported completely the Board’s decision to appoint Dr Ziggy Switkowski to conduct a review of our governance processes. Ziggy’s look into our governance processes has been healthy and incredibly important to the Club. And as he said in his recommendations, a club CEO must be accountable for everything that happens within their organisation. To summarise his words: staff cannot bypass him, Boards must work through him and commercial priorities must not consume so much of his time that there is not proper oversight of the football operations. I wholeheartedly agree.
We now know a lot happened at this club in 2012 that just should not have happened. We let down our players and their families. How seriously we let them down is still a matter under investigation, but I sit here today saying that our club let those people down, and there is no excuses in not knowing, and as CEO, I am accountable and I accept that accountability.
There is still a way to go with the ASADA/AFL investigation, and there is still much work for the Board of the Essendon Football Club to do. The focus of this work MUST remain with a primary view to the players.
I have a firm belief that David Evans and the Board of the Club will continue to provide the leadership and guidance that will see the Club emerge stronger for this experience.
Now is the right time for the Board to look for, and appoint, a new CEO to oversee the changes that must continue to happen at this great club to make sure that they continue to see the Club through this challenging period. I have committed to David that I will do whatever is asked of me in paving the way for a smooth transition for my successor.
I have been working in football and sport for over 20 years.
I work in sport administration because I deeply believe in the positive role that sport plays in our community and in our lives. I have been extremely privileged to have worked at the Essendon Football Club, which in only a few short weeks turns 140 years young, with some really wonderful people. You all know the quality of David Evans, and I wish David and the Board well in continuing to rebuild the Club and its reputation.
But the real unsung heroes of this club are people whose names are never in the paper and never get the recognition they deserve. The great people at this club are taking the calls from the public, talking to our passionate members, looking after corporate partners and sponsors, and of course and most importantly of all looking after and supporting the football team. I want to place on record my thanks to everyone that I have had the privilege of working with and alongside in my 4 year tenure at Windy Hill and in particular the Executive team who have shown loyalty, strength of character and leadership. Further I want to acknowledge my Assistant Lisa Raciti for her outstanding support.
They have been a team I have been extremely proud to have lead. The club has record membership, strong corporate partners and is on the verge of moving from its traditional home to a fantastic new facility at Tullamarine.
None of those things happen by chance, they are all down to the collective commitment of some fantastic people. I hope that in time, these achievements will also be remembered as part of my contribution to Essendon.
I have also greatly valued the support I have received from within the AFL industry during these difficult times for the Club.
I also want to thank my family. I am grateful for their enduring and unconditional support.
A lot of criticism has been levelled at the Australian Crime Commission, ASADA and the now infamous ‘blackest day in sport’ press conference. I want to make it really clear from my point of view, knowing what I know now; we must use these events as a turning point in our sport. As David Evans has said: if you care about sport, then respect the people who are trying to investigate what happened. If there is a line in the sand – I want to be on the side of those who put first the health and safety of players and the underlying fairness of the game.
I have learnt a lot over the last few months, and I hope that my commitment to the club and to doing the right thing during this period will serve to make some amends for the serious failings of last year. I am now going to commit myself to becoming a better sports administrator. Working through this period has taught me a lot and the passion I have to work with in this industry is undiminished.
Finally, can I finish by extending my every best wish for success to James and Jobe as the two leaders of our Football team, not just for this week’s blockbuster dreamtime Clash at the MCG but in the coming weeks, months and seasons that lie ahead.