Ajax working on internal culture change

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Logo Ajax Johan Cruijff Arena 1280

Ajax has taken note of the final report of the investigation by Bezemer & Schubad, which was commissioned by the Supervisory Board in connection with transgressive behaviour by Marc Overmars. The results of this report were shared with the organisation.

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The Supervisory Board and the Management Board, together with the club's Executive Board, have set themselves the goal of creating a safer working and sporting environment within all parts of the club. This is being done on the basis of the recommendations in the report, namely: draw up a plan of action, appoint an expert committee to commission and supervise this process as well as carry out an independent broad culture survey among all employees as a baseline measurement.

The study revealed that a number of women within Ajax are being confronted with undesirable behaviour. This ranged from poor jokes and derogatory or hurtful remarks, to an unwanted arms around the shoulder and other intrusive behaviour.  Not a single woman has filed a complaint. But they do report it, because it is clear that it bothers them. All the reporting women indicated that they found it difficult to bring up undesirable behaviour with confidential counsellors, or within the organisation, because they were afraid of repercussions.

The research also confirms the serious nature of the previously communicated transgressive behaviour of Marc Overmars. Several women have reported this.  For the sake of completeness, the report also mentions two past cases of other people involved, against whom action was taken at the time.

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Leen Meijaard, Chairman of the Supervisory Board: "We regret that we were unable to offer these women a safe working environment. Together with the management and HR, we will work on the envisaged improvements. The various reports make it clear that there is work to be done so that everyone understands that undesirable behaviour is not accepted and, if something does happen, employees feel free to raise the issue, call each other to account and report it, if necessary."

"We are grateful to the women who have reported transgressive and other undesirable behaviour to the investigators, together with their examples. We understand that this has been far from easy."

The most important recommendation from the report is the establishment of a broad-based, independent and expert supervisory committee for the culture change process. The purpose of this committee is to initiate processes of behavioural change and to monitor the policies put in place by the management and HR in order to create a safer working and sports environment. The supervisory committee has instructed the management to draw up and elaborate a plan of approach. This will focus on the following pillars mentioned in the agency's report:

  • The approach to undesirable behaviour must be structured and focused on prevention.
  • Good reception and handling of reports of undesirable behaviour by confidential counsellors.Confidential counsellors. They must be easily accessible, well-trained and well known within the organisation; the same applies for mediation options.
  • Formal complaints must be adequately dealt with by a complaints committee.
  • The responsibility for the policy lies with top management and top management must commit itself visibly and audibly to the policy.
  • Managers, trainers and supervisors need to familiarise themselves with the theme of undesirable behaviour and be trained in dealing with it through awareness training, including training for bystanders.

Following advice from the supervisory committee, this action plan will be submitted to the Supervisory Board.

In order to guarantee the independence and expertise of the supervisory committee, it will consist of external experts, Ajax employees from both De Toekomst and the ArenA, and representatives from the Supervisory Board, the Executive Board, the management and the Works Council. In view of the subject matter, we will strive to achieve a gender balance in the composition. An independent external expert will act as chair. Ajax has found integrity specialist Mirjam Decoz willing to take on the role of independent chair. The other members will be appointed in the coming weeks.

Edwin van der Sar: "I want to give a big compliment to the women who have already come up with initiatives together. It is good to talk to each other about this subject from a practical point of view. We are also happy to make use of their input for the action plan and in the supervisory committee. Trust in each other is a key concept in developing a safer culture and organisation. I am personally deeply committed to this. Employees absolutely have to feel safe to speak out and to express their opinions in practice on a daily basis. That has to be the effect of the intended culture change. We will work really hard on that together and we will also be held accountable for it."  

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