PtG Article 25.08.2017

Australian Olympic Committee President stands firm despite critical review

Undeterred by a critical assessment of its workplace culture, John Coates upholds his role as Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) President.

In a statement made by AOC president and vice-president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on Thursday, John Coates attempted to relieve himself of responsibility for a dysfunctional workplace culture highlighted by an independent review.

“Why should I resign? There has been no confirmation of bullying,” Coates told reporters on Thursday following the release of a report looking into AOC work culture, Inside the Games writes.

“There has been some criticism of senior leaders - I'm the President, I'm not the senior leader that is being criticised. There has been no treatment of the staff by me that is objectionable,” he added.

The review was carried out by The Ethics Centre, a not-for-profit independent organisation in Sydney, which conducted a series of interviews with AOC staff members and stakeholders to investigate the organisation’s workplace culture. The review was commissioned by the AOC following allegations made against Mike Tancred, AOC director of media and communications.

In June, Tancred apologised to former AOC chief executive, Fiona de Jong after admitting having intimidated her in a phone call. Tancred was subsequently cleared of the allegation made by de Jong.

The Ethics Centre however, found Tancred’s behaviour only to be part of a more extensive problem within the organisation. In its review, The Ethics Centre claims that the AOC does not express the majority of its values in practice.

“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 states.

Additionally, the review found that AOC staff were disappointed with the senior leadership team because it tolerates and practices “inappropriate behaviour, petty politics, poor communication, perceived favouritism and partiality in decision making,” reports Inside the Games.

Coates blames former officials for many of the problems raised in the report.

“The senior leadership that have been criticised in this report - they're not all with us anymore,” Coates commented on the results of the review.

“I certainly don't like it but they weren't my direct reports, the dysfunctional leaders that are referred to there, with the exception of the chief executives,” he continued.

"That was the hand I was dealt in terms of those chief executives,” Coates said.

The comments were met with stark criticism by de Jong, who stepped down as chief executive in December 2016.

“It is convenient for the President to name the very chief executive who is the only one who has been brave enough to actually speak out publicly on these issues and reported issues of culture to the President himself,” she told Fairfax Media, writes Inside the Games.

“You can't claim you're being remunerated for doing the job as Executive President and then claim you're not responsible for anything that goes on under your Presidency,” de Jong concluded.

Coates, who was re-elected as AOC President in May, admitted that change is needed within the AOC. He is under pressure to bring about changes to the AOC, including an overhaul of the organisational culture and governance as well as a review of the $700.000 a-year AOC presidential salary.