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AFL

AFL team's CEO quits just 24 hours after taking the job over links to anti-gay anti-abortion church

Max Sherry

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AFL team's CEO quits just 24 hours after taking the job over links to anti-gay anti-abortion church

Essendon Bombers CEO Andrew Thorburn has quit just a matter of 24 hours after taking the job.

His sudden resignation comes after information linking Thorburn to a highly-controversial church was unearthed.

It's understood the City on a Hill church holds strong anti-gay and anti-abortion views, so much so that the institution was described as “absolutely appalling” by Victorian premier and Bombers fan Dan Andrews.

Shortly after the ex-NAB boss was appointed CEO of Essendon, the Herald Sun revealed Thorburn's role within the extreme church.

"New Essendon chief executive Andrew Thorburn is chairman of a church organisation which likens abortion to the operation of concentration camps and declares that homosexual behaviour is wrong," the article read.

News of his beliefs didn't sit well with the AFL community, and now - just a day after his appointment - Thorburn has walked out.

“As soon as the comments relating to a 2013 sermon from a pastor, at the City of the Hill church came to light this morning, we acted immediately to clarify the publicly espoused views on the organisation’s official website, which are in direct contradiction to our values as a club,” Essendon president Dave Barham said.

Andrew Thorburn. Credit: Alamy
Andrew Thorburn. Credit: Alamy

“Essendon is committed to providing an inclusive, diverse and a safe club, where everyone is welcome and respected.

“The Board made clear that, despite these not being views that Andrew Thorburn has expressed personally and that were also made prior to him taking up his role as Chairman, he couldn’t continue to serve in his dual roles at the Essendon Football Club and as Chairman of City on the Hill.

“The Board respects Andrew’s decision.

“We are deeply committed to our values and support wholeheartedly the work of the AFL in continuing to stamp out any discrimination based on race, sex, religion, gender, sexual identity or orientation, or physical or mental disability.

“I want to stress that neither the board nor Andrew was aware of the comments from the 2013 sermon until we read about them this morning. I also want to stress that this is not about vilifying anyone for their personal religious beliefs, but about a clear conflict of interest with an organisation whose views do not align at all with our values as a safe, inclusive, diverse and welcoming club for our staff, our players, our members, our fans, our partners and the wider community.

“Acting CEO Nick Ryan will continue in his role whilst we commence the process to appoint a new CEO.”

Daniel Andrews. Credit: Alamy
Daniel Andrews. Credit: Alamy

Prior to his departure and in the midst of the public's anger, Thorburn went on national radio to give his side of the story.

“I’m not a pastor. My job in a governance role is to make sure it’s run well. I don’t always agree with what’s said, but in a way that’s not the point,” he told SEN Breakfast.

“If you want a diverse society it also means there’s going to be people with different views. And I think as we go forward in Australia, it’s not whether those views exist – because they do – the question for harmony is whether we can coexist and hear each other and respect each other’s views. It’s that point around ‘I disagree with what you say, but I defend your right to say it’.

“I think people forget the church does a lot of great things for disadvantaged people to help them – it still plays an important role in the community. It‘s a diverse group itself, not everyone holds the same view.”

Victorian premier Dan Andrews wasn't having a bar of it though, voicing his deep concerns with a major sporting figure's beliefs.

“There are many reasons to be a somewhat disappointed Essendon supporter,” Andrews said.

“I don’t want to make light of this but I don’t appoint the CEO of the Essendon footy club or the CEO of any footy club. That’s a matter for the board.”

He added: “Those views are absolutely appalling. I don’t support those views, that kind of intolerance, that kind of hatred, bigotry. It is just wrong.

“To dress that up as anything other than bigotry is just obviously false.”

Featured Image Credit: Alamy/Wikimedia Creative Commons

Topics: Australia, Australia Afl, Aussie Rules Football

Max Sherry
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