Fagan “categorically” denies the allegations, he was “shocked and deeply distressed”

Chris Fagan has joined Alastair Clarkson in denying any wrongdoing in the AFL racism scandal, saying he is “deeply saddened” by the allegations threatening his coaching career.

Both coaches say they will cooperate with an independent investigation into claims of racism from their time in Hawthorn, described as “depressing” by the federal government.

The AFL will appoint a four-person team of investigators, led by a King’s Counsel, with league boss Gillon McLachlan hoping the panel will be finalized before Saturday’s grand finale. Meanwhile, Fagan has taken leave of his coaching post in Brisbane, while Clarkson will delay the start of his new appointment in North Melbourne.

Former Hawthorn Player Welfare Manager Jason Burt has taken indefinite leave from his position at a Melbourne private school and former Hawks President Andrew Newbold has taken a leave from the AFL Commission.

“I was shocked and deeply distressed by the allegations reported in the media yesterday regarding my time at Hawthorn Football Club,” Fagan said in a statement to AFL.com.au on Thursday.

“I categorically deny the allegations that I made a mistake on my part in relation to the First Nations players of the Hawthorn Football Club.

“I have had very positive relationships with First Nations players during my many years in football, and indeed with players from different racial and ethnic groups.”

Allegations of racism were reported by ABC on Wednesday, following an investigation commissioned by Hawthorn earlier in the year.

Fagan said he was not interviewed as part of Hawthorn’s review. ABC reported that Fagan, Clarkson and Burt did not answer the questions they were asked.

“I’m going to defend myself,” Fagan said in his statement.

Chris Fagan (Photo by Quinn Rooney / Getty Images)

“I hope people judge me based on how I actually behave and not based on what is written in the media.

“I support and welcome the investigation announced yesterday by the AFL.

“I intend to participate fully in the investigation and look forward to being heard and due to due process and fairness.”

Among the many allegations made by unnamed former Hawthorn players, Fagan and Clarkson were accused of telling a player and his partner to terminate the pregnancy and separate so the player could focus on football. Clarkson denied any allegations in a statement Wednesday.

“The health, care and well-being of our players, staff and their families have always been my top priorities during my time at Hawthorn,” said Clarkson.

“I was therefore shocked by the extremely serious allegations reported in the media earlier today.”

Four-time Premiership manager Clarkson was at Hawthorn between 2005 and 2021. Fagan was Clarkson’s assistant senior manager and general manager of football at the Hawks from 2008 to 2016, before being appointed Brisbane manager in 2017.

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The fury prompted Eddie Betts to urge all AFL clubs to conduct reviews of their historical treatment of indigenous players, similar to that undertaken by Hawthorn. The suggestion has been presented to AFL several times, but the league has yet to work to facilitate the process.

“There are a lot of good suggestions and a lot of people that need to be heard,” McLachlan told reporters Thursday.

“Our priority at the moment is to finalize the terms of reference, get the independent panel together and kick this off because these are incredibly serious allegations.

“There has been tremendous courage on the part of a number of people to come forward and we need to give the accused time to respond and get to the bottom of this as quickly as possible.”

The AFL said all parties will be granted “natural justice” through its investigations.