Essendon Bombers chief executive Andrew Thorburn resigns a day after being appointed
Essendon chief executive Andrew Thorburn has sensationally resigned just a day after he was appointed into the position.
Thorburn, the former boss of NAB and Bank of NZ, took over the position on Monday, a move which was panned after it was revealed he was the chair of the City on a Hill – a faith movement that has a strong stance against abortion and homosexuality.
In a statement on Tuesday afternoon, president Dave Barham said the Bombers said they gave Thorburn a choice to either stay involved with the church or keep his job at Essendon.
“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,” the club said in a statement.
“Essendon is committed to providing an inclusive, diverse and 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.”
In his first interview on Tuesday morning, Thorburn acknowledged some of the views of the church were “offensive and upset people”.
“My faith is a very personal thing, and my faith has helped me become a better leader,” Thorburn told SEN on Tuesday.
“I also want to say in the church, like any diverse place, there are very different views on all these matters. I have different views on all these matters.
“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.
“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.
“At the centre of my faith is the belief that you should create community, care for people, help people’s faith and respect them as humans.”