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GM HOLDEN is reallocating a hefty chunk of its Collingwood Football Club (CFC) sponsorship fund to the new women’s Magpies team, following Eddie McGuire’s controversial remarks directed at sports journalist Caroline Wilson last month.

An inflammatory ‘joke’ made by the Collingwood team president on a Melbourne radio station brought into question the continued support of the car-maker, which disapproved of the remark, and has since prompted a restructure of sponsorships.

The comments were regarded by many as condoning violence against women and Holden was quick to distance itself from the remark, describing it at the time as “inappropriate” and adding that it “reflects poorly on the Collingwood Football Club, its fans, stakeholders and sponsors”.

Holden on: Collingwood women’s football operations manager Meg Hutchins (centre) with men’s coach Nathan Buckley (left) and director of football Neil Balme.

Holden on: Collingwood women’s football operations manager Meg Hutchins (centre) with men’s coach Nathan Buckley (left) and director of football Neil Balme.

In a show of support for both equality and the new 2017 inaugural AFL women’s league, Holden will be splitting its Collingwood fund down the middle, with less than half going to the long-standing men’s team, while the new Pies club and community projects will receive the lion’s share.

While the news will certainly sting the men’s team, it is a better result than the worst case scenario, which could have resulted in the car-maker dropping the team entirely, but in a statement released today, Holden chairman and managing director Mark Bernhard said there was room for ongoing support.

“The easy thing to do would be to walk away from Collingwood, the hard road is to stick together and work side-by-side to champion diversity and continue to drive meaningful change. That is what we have decided to do; we sponsor Collingwood, not an individual,” he said.

Mr Bernhard explained that remarks like Mr McGuire’s undermine the hard work of individuals and organisations in championing equality in all areas including sport, but the partnership would continue to fight for diversity.

“Industries like automotive and sporting codes like the AFL are often viewed as ‘blokey’ and behind the times when it comes to social issues. We now have a chance to take a stronger leadership position. Large organisations such as Holden and Collingwood have an important role to play in reinforcing the values of diversity, equality and inclusion. We can be a stronger force working together.

“Myself, and the entire Holden team, remain firm in categorically rejecting the comments made by Mr McGuire. This was a difficult decision and I sought counsel from friends, family and colleagues. “Ultimately, however, our partnership is with Collingwood and the club has a strong record of championing diversity and inclusion. We want to continue to work together because this partnership is about more than just footy.”

In addition to the CFC women’s team support, the lion badge will also become a major partner of the women’s ambassador program and partner of the women’s grassroots program, as well as creating a national domestic violence awareness campaign in conjunction with domestic violence campaign leader Rosie Batty and the Salvation Army.

Part of the funding will also go to the Melbourne Park precinct-based Holden Centre, which provides a safe environment for women to train, as well as the necessary segregated bathroom and changing facilities.

In addition to the increased support of women in sport, automotive industry and the community, Holden has introduced a paid leave policy for people effected by domestic violence, and a ‘blind CV’ recruitment process, which prevents any decisions regarding hiring based on gender.

By Daniel Gardner

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