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HomeAFLAndrew Thorburn Essendon, sacked as CEO, legal action, City on a Hill...

Andrew Thorburn Essendon, sacked as CEO, legal action, City on a Hill church, settlement, payout

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Essendon has settled a legal dispute with former CEO Andrew Thorburn, with the club apologising to the former NAB executive.

Thorburn infamously held the role of Essendon CEO for little more than a day before resigning, which came after his role as chairman of City on a Hill church was further investigated by the club, with the sermons likening abortion to a concentration camp and labelling homosexuality a sin.

The Herald Sun reported on Tuesday the settlement would involve Thorburn dropping all legal action and donating any money involved to charity.

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“On 3 October 2022, the club appointed Andrew Thorburn as its CEO. Regrettably, Mr Thorburn had to give up his position the next day. The club and Mr Thorburn are pleased to announce that the dispute between them has been resolved,” a statement on the Bombers’ club website read.

“A critical element of this resolution is to enable a wider community conversation on the importance of freedom of conscience, religion and belief and how to have respectful dialogue between people with different views and perspectives.

“All people should be respected and welcomed in workplaces and community organisations. No-one should have to choose between their faith or sexuality, and their employment.

“Further, everyone should be able to openly express their personal position, in a respectful way, without fear and still feel that they belong. Genuine diversity and inclusion also includes people of faith. The club acknowledges that the events of October should have been handled better and apologises for the impact it had on Mr Thorburn, his family and others.

“Both parties consider that elements of the public commentary at the time were extreme and wrong and counter-productive to the respectful community dialogue they agree is critical. Mr Thorburn remains welcome at the club. The club reiterates that he is a person of integrity who treats others, whether at work or elsewhere, with dignity and respect. He has a strong track record of leadership including with respect to diversity and inclusion of LGBTIQ and other minority groups.

“As part of a commitment to genuine diversity and inclusion, and to show leadership in this area, the club has agreed to make a donation to an Ethics Institute. The Institute will prepare an independent paper on how sporting organisations can build inclusive communities recognising freedoms including those relating to race, religion and sexuality.”

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A statement from Thorburn read:

“The Essendon Football Club and I have resolved the issues of recent months and made a joint statement. I am pleased it is resolved. I would like to thank EFC and wish them well as they seek to build a strong and united club.

“The statement is important – not just because it enables us to resolve the differences between us constructively, but because it affirms some key points of principle about genuine diversity and inclusion and respectful engagement.

“The last few months have been difficult, yet it has also given me hope and strength. This has come from the many people who have reached out to me and provided love, prayers and support through these challenging times. The statement would not have been achieved without the support of many – Kathryn, my wife; our family; my legal team, Michael Borsky KC and Justin Vaatstra (of ABL); Mark Hawthorne (Civic Partnership); the community of City on a Hill; and my friends. Thank you so much. Personally, I will be stepping away from all my formal responsibilities at the end of February 2023, and taking a year off. It is time to rest and reflect, and to spend an extended time with those I love.”

Earlier this month, Thorburn announced he would be stepping down from all formal responsibilities with City on a Hill church.

The Bombers eventually appointed former West Coast football boss Craig Vozzo as Thorburn’s replacement.

It follows a season of considerable off-field change, with former CEO Xavier Campbell resigning after nearly nine years in the role, while former coach Ben Rutten was sacked with a year remaining on his contract.

Club president Lindsay Tanner was also replaced in the role by David Barham, with Tanner eventually vacating the board.

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