The ringleader behind an AFL staff uprising has gone public with damning claims of bullying and intimidation at league headquarters.
The ringleader behind an AFL staff uprising has gone public with damning claims of bullying and intimidation at league headquarters.

AFL bullying: ‘Horror stories’ of boys' club culture

The ringleader behind an AFL staff uprising claims a culture of "bullying and intimidation" has thrived at league headquarters for more than a decade.

State umpiring manager Pierce Field said a litany of workplace "horror stories" had been covered up as part of an entrenched "boys' club protection racket".

Field said he was speaking out on behalf of hundreds of rank-and file AFL workers set to lose their jobs under a cost-cutting purge.

He is leading a United Services Union action against the league's redundancy processes starting at the Fair Work Commission in Sydney on Monday.

In a series of damning claims regarding the conduct of senior AFL officials, Field alleges:

* CCTV cameras installed at the league's Brisbane office were used to "monitor employee movement";

* A top league official joked about a serious workplace grievance during an all-of-staff meeting;

* A manager prone to "volcanic behaviour" ordered the removal of rubbish bins from under staff desks, the banning of jackets from the back of office chairs, and the banishment of visible power cords, loose papers and books within his department.

The Herald Sun has obtained documents detailing allegations of bullying lodged by a female AFL staffer against a male executive several years ago.

The woman told human resources chiefs about an incident where the male superior closed his office door, pointed angrily at her and screamed: "I am the fucking (position deleted) and I decide what you do".

"I went back to my office feeling deeply upset, demoralised, degraded, humiliated, bullied and fearful," she said.

"I love my job and the people I work with, however, I am constantly anxious and stressed and this is affecting my health, my work life and my personal life."

Pierce Field, state umpiring manager - NSW/ACT
Pierce Field, state umpiring manager - NSW/ACT

The accused executive has since left the AFL.

Monday's Fair Work hearing will focus on the AFL's alleged failure to consult with staff over the job cuts and a decision to cut the "the maximum redundancy entitlement from 52 weeks down to 26 weeks".

Field said AFL workers earning as little as $55,000 a year were "treated like children", while senior managers were "paid excessively and lavished with lucrative bonuses".

Of the decision in March to cut redundancy payments in half, Field said: "It was a dog act.

"Good people who had dedicated their lives to the game, for not a lot of cash, are being screwed over.

"Since introducing the union I have heard horror stories from staff subject to behaviour that wouldn't be acceptable in any workplace. Complaints were made - and nothing was done.

"This culture appears to be alive and well within AFL House today. It appears to be a protection racket.

"For an organisation that does so much good in the community, it's a bit hard to cop when the business actively covers up issues internally."

Field, who has worked at the AFL's NSW and Queensland offices since 2012, said the USU had achieved "significant uptake in union membership since the flawed consultation process started" but claimed many league workers were too "scared of reprisal from management" to join.

"To me that's a massive red flag and begs questions as to why and how this culture has been fostered when sport and the AFL's own values are meant to be about fairness," he said.

"When criticism is provided to senior management - it is brushed away. Is it right to have a culture where loyal staff are afraid to speak up?

"Footy deserves better than that.

"People have been frozen out.

"We're just asking for consultation to be genuine and lawful, whilst treating people with dignity and respect.

"I'm one of the lucky ones, I have a secure career elsewhere and I have no intention to return to the AFL in the near future.

"But I will be damned if I will stand idly by and watch good people that have grown the game be screwed out of what they deserve."


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Originally published as AFL bullying: 'Horror stories' of boys club culture

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