A survey of Australian Olympic Committee’s workplace practices reveals internal disputes and a dysfunctional culture
An independent review of the Australian Olympic Committee’s workplace practices released on Thursday has revealed a dysfunctional culture out of step with the Games’ ideals.
The review, following interviews and surveys with current and former AOC executive members and staff as well as with national sports federations, did not find a bullying culture within the organisation.
But it detailed an environment of “senior leaders undermining each other, working around each other, and openly displaying hostility towards each other”.
Long-time AOC chief John Coates defiantly said he would not quit following the damning independent review.
“Why should I resign?” Coates told reporters at a media conference Thursday.
“There has been no confirmation of bullying. There has been some criticism of senior leaders — I’m the president, I’m not the senior leader that is being criticised.”
The review also uncovered a disillusionment with the way in which staff and national federations were treated by the AOC.
“While staff and stakeholders hold the AOC in high regard and express immense pride in what the organisation has achieved over the years, they describe the organisation as being out of step — with both their ideals and minimum expectations for a modern organisation,” the investigation said of its findings.
“Instead of seeing the organisation as celebrating the best of the Olympic ideals, staff and stakeholders speak of a more immediate horizon of challenges and difficulties that stem from a culture that is not aligned with the ideals that the organisation aspires to uphold.”
The review comes in the wake of a stormy period for the AOC, with Coates fighting off a well-backed bid by challenger Danni Roche to remain as the organisation’s figure-head.
– AOC brand ‘damaged’ –
Coates, who has been at the helm for 27 years, won a secret ballot 58-35 in May to continue in his role, but admitted the AOC brand was “damaged” by the acrimonious campaign.
Dubbed the most powerful individual in Australian sport, Coates has been AOC chief since 1990 and a vice-president of the International Olympic Committee since 2013.
Coates has declared this will be his last three-year term of office and vowed to step down after the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
His right-hand man and long-time AOC media director Mike Tancred, who stood down from his job during the presidency campaign, had been previously reprimanded for his conduct regarding ex-AOC chief executive Fiona de Jong.
Tancred was cleared of a bullying allegation made by de Jong but was reprimanded by an separate investigation which found he engaged in disreputable conduct.
De Jong’s allegation prompted a series of other accusations from former AOC employees as well as concerns among athletes and sports about the culture of the organisation, which led to the independent review.
AOC chief executive Matt Carroll, who started in his role in May, said the organisation would implement all 17 recommendations made to it within the review.
“This review provides us with the platform to reset the organisation,” Carroll told reporters.
“The AOC’s modes of operation that may at one time have served us well are being questioned and our organisational culture has come under scrutiny.
“The AOC executive acknowledges the reality of the challenge we face in this area and we are committed to build a culture that is fit for purpose and aligned to our espoused values and principles.”
Ian Chesterman, 58, was also announced as Australia’s chef de mission for the 2020 Tokyo Games, replacing Kitty Chiller, who stood down from the role after last year’s Rio Olympics.