AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan has publicly apologised to Eddie Betts and his former Adelaide teammates over the league’s bungled investigation into the Crows’ ill-fated 2018 pre-season camp.
The apology comes after calls from Betts and high-profile football figures, including Melbourne premiership coach and Adelaide playing great Simon Goodwin, for the league to say sorry for its role in the saga.
“Clearly we’re sorry to Eddie and anyone who’s (endured) suffering from that camp,” McLachlan told the Seven Network on Thursday night.
“We’ve seen today how much it hurt Eddie and frankly some of the stuff that went on was a disgrace.
“Clearly we’re hearing him and hear his pain and we’re sorry.”
Adelaide chief executive Tim Silvers publicly and privately apologised to Betts on Wednesday for the trauma the AFL great suffered during the infamous training camp on the Gold Coast.
Betts, an Indigenous icon, revealed the company who ran the camp had misused personal and sensitive information, some of which was disrespectful to his culture.
“Things were yelled at me that I had disclosed to the camp’s ‘counsellors’ about my upbringing,” Betts wrote in his autobiography The Boy from Boomerang Crescent.
“All the people present heard these things. I was exhausted, drained and distressed about the details being shared.
“Another camp dude jumped on my back and started to berate me about my mother, something so deeply personal that I was absolutely shattered to hear it come out of his mouth.”
A SafeWork SA investigation last year cleared Adelaide of breaching health and safety laws and an AFL investigation in October 2018 cleared the Crows of any industry rule breach.
The AFL released a statement on Wednesday acknowledging the “hurt Eddie Betts, his family, his community, and by extension all Indigenous players experienced on the camp”.
But the AFL’s refusal to reopen an investigation and lack of apology over its initial investigation – until McLachlan’s comments on Thursday night – sparked condemnation.
Betts had felt let down by the lack of action from the AFL.
“I told them everything,” Betts told Fox Footy’s AFL360 on Wednesday of the AFL’s original investigation.
“I just felt like my voice wasn’t being heard and I felt like I needed justice.
“It did hurt at first when nothing was done. And so … obviously we did get an apology from Tim Silvers (on Wednesday) and I felt like justice is served.”
When asked whether he should receive an apology from the AFL, Betts replied: “I think that’s one of the easiest things to do is say sorry.
“They acknowledged (the pain). But the easiest thing to do is say sorry.
“When they came out and (acknowledged the pain) about the Aboriginal players, it wasn’t only the Aboriginal players.
“The easiest thing would be for the AFL to come out and to apologise to all of us players.”
Betts revealed the players were “brainwashed” at the camp and were told to stay silent.
The AFL Players Association were left shocked by the new revelations and have decided to reopen an investigation.
“What we now believe is clear from our discussions with those players and the information contained in Eddie’s book is that players felt pressured into remaining silent about the details of the camp,” AFLPA chief executive Paul Marsh said.
Marsh said although it was difficult to glean information from some players at the time, he said perhaps the AFLPA could have done more to get to the bottom of it.
“I’m open to a view from some that we could have tried harder,” Marsh told SEN.
“I’m not saying that everything that could have been done was done, but I think we certainly tried to get to the bottom of what happened with the players and I don’t feel as though we did.”
Geelong star and AFLPA president Patrick Dangerfield said it was “sickening” what Betts was forced to endure during the camp.