Sacked Matildas coach allegedly described team environment as ‘dysfunctional’ and ‘cancerous’
Only hours before he was sacked, former Matilda’s coach Alen Stajcic allegedly described the team environment as “dysfunctional” and “cancerous”, according to the Football Federation Australia board.
- Stajcic said there were no discussions about team culture until three weeks ago
- The FFA is reluctant to release details around the surveys as information was provided confidentially
- His replacement is expected to be announced in the coming days
This sits at odds with the coach’s view that none of the teams he has coached have ever had a culture problem.
In a written response to a number of state bodies’ demands for clarity over the high-profile axing, FFA chairman Chris Nikou provided details of a conversation between Stajic and the FFA’s CEO, David Gallop.
“FFA CEO met with Alen Stajcic on 18 January, at which meeting the Head Coach stated that the Matildas environment was ‘dysfunctional’ and ‘cancerous’ and ‘was always going to be that way’,” the letter said.
“The Board then met via teleconference to discuss the issue and made its unanimous decision on the information before it.
“On 19 January FFA CEO met with Alen Stajcic to advise that his contract would be terminated effective immediately with payment of the pre-agreed amount in lieu of notice.”
At a press conference earlier in the week Stajcic said there were never any discussions about team culture until that meeting three weeks ago.
“In 20 years of coaching I’ve never had an issue around the culture of any single team I’ve coached — let alone the Matildas,” he said.
“In five years I’ve never had a conversation with anyone on the executive — the CEO, the chairman — about the culture of my team and the first time I’d ever spoken to David Gallop about this issue was on the 18th of January and that conversation went for somewhere around about 20 minutes.”
One of the many critical questions about the FFA’s decision to axe the coach is around whether Stajcic was afforded due process in what appeared to be a sudden and drastic decision less than five months out from the FIFA World Cup.
The letter describes in detail the lengthy process undertaken by the FFA.
How did the surveys come about?
It appears concerns from within the team environment emerged back in July and August 2018, following the Tournament of Nations where the Matildas finished runners-up behind the United States.
“These were formally raised with the Head Coach and Assistant Coach by the Head of National Performance at a meeting in late August upon return to Australia,” the letter said.
Similar issues were also raised at the time by the FFA Women’s Committee which suggested an outside organisation be employed to undertake a “culture/gender equality survey”.
That ultimately led to a partnership with Our Watch on the recommendation of work the group was already doing with sports including the AFL, the NRL and Rugby Australia.
A proposal from the players union, PFA, to conduct a Wellbeing Audit, was “fast-tracked … and involved Alen Stajcic in its development”.
PFA boss John Didulica confirmed earlier this week that the coach had played an instrumental role in the design of the survey.
Stajcic said there had never been any issues with the culture of any team he had coached. (AAP: Julian Smith)
The survey was conducted in November 2018, results were sent to the coach and the board in early December, and according to the FFA, it identified a number of issues warranting further investigation.
It was at that point Stajcic claims he “lost faith” with the survey.
A two-day leadership conference was scheduled for late in January, also involving the coach, where the issues were to be discussed and potentially resolved.
In early January the summary of the Matildas component of the Our Watch survey was delivered to the FFA, which led to further discussions and meetings with players, staff and other stakeholders.
These were designed to gather further views and information relating to the Matildas culture, performance and team environment.
FFA reluctant to release further information
Previously, it has been reported that 25 per cent of the players surveyed in the PFA Wellbeing Audit reported suffering psychological distress, and a majority could not say the team environment had made them better people or players.
According to Chris Nikou, in his letter to state presidents, the FFA is reluctant to release information publicly because of their commitment to players regarding the anonymity of the process.
“It is important to note that disclosure of further information is likely to adversely impact on the individuals who provided information on a confidential basis,” the letter said.
“Importantly our focus now is on creating a stable, positive and supportive environment for the Matildas in this critical period leading into the World Cup and we are encouraged by the calibre of applicants for the role of Head Coach.”
The ABC understands Stajcic has received his payout and his replacement will be named in the coming days.