AFL news: Essendon’s controversial CEO appointment raises serious questions, Andrew Thorburn, David Barham

Essendon is being questioned by football fans and veteran footy journalists after the controversial appointment, and subsequent departure, of a new CEO.

Andrew Thorburn was announced as the new man in charge at Essendon on Monday, but walked away from the club on Tuesday evening.

Thorburn, 57, is chairman of the City on a Hill church, which has previously condemned homosexuality and holds divisive views around abortion.

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The church has an article on its website from 2013 titled ‘Surviving Same Sex Attraction as a Christian’.

Thorburn distanced himself from those views and said he anticipated the public backlash after “little firestorms” surrounding his faith in his previous jobs.

After his resignation was confirmed by the football club on Tuesday, questions began to be raised over the process behind Thorburn’s hiring.

Veteran journalist Andrew Maher questioned just how deep Essendon dug into Thorburn before appointing him as the CEO.

“Some of their (the church’s) platforms became public,” Maher said on SEN’s The Run Home.

“(He had an) unwillingness to step away from a couple of their pillars, which are part of their Christian belief, are radically pro-life and homophobic and anti-gay marriage.

“How did they not know? Did they know that he was the Chair of this Christian church?

“Did they know he was the Chair of that and do their research into the platforms on which this church stands and did they think, ‘That’s his personal view and won’t interfere with his position as CEO’?

“Or did they not know? How do they not know? How do they miss that?”

AFL great Jimmy Bartel slammed the Bombers for not looking into Thorburn thoroughly enough before opting to appoint him as their CEO.

“It’s a massive cross for due diligence and running the process correctly … if you’re a CEO, your values and views are incredibly important because you’re charged with the values and views of an organisation, you’re the figurehead in charge of running the business,” Bartel said.

ESPN’s Matt Walsh raised the same point as Maher, stating either the club didn’t undertake due diligence or knew about the history and decided to overlook it.

“Barham and the Bombers’ board either knew about Thorburn’s history after doing a thorough review of the candidates and approved him anyway, or they didn’t undertake a thorough review of this or any other candidate and just appointed him on a whim. Not sure which one is worse.”

Channel 7’s Tom Browne labelled the appointment “embarrassing” as the club reels over a nightmare past week.

“Essendon’s bungled CEO appointment is an embarrassing own goal, only three days after Sheedy supported Hird. The search committee involved one of the people and culture partners from a big four accounting firm. The information was available on Google,” Browne wrote.

Essendon issued a statement on Tuesday evening where it stated: “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 wording of that paragraph makes it look plausible that nobody within the club looked into the church of which Thorburn was Chairman.

Essendon president David Barham rubbished that notion, saying Thorburn was reference-checked and the comments weren’t easily found by a Google search.

“These comments were very deep in sermons from years ago, so they weren’t as easily found as that (a quick Google search),” Barham said.

“I reference-checked Andrew thoroughly. I rang five incredibly high-profile people who had worked with him and worked for him and I had no reason to think anything other than he was a suitable candidate.”

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