SYDNEY (AP) — Alen Stajcic has been fired as Australia’s head coach just five months out from the Women’s World Cup, where the Matildas will start as one of the six seeded teams.
Football Federation Australia chief executive David Gallop told a news conference on Saturday that Stajcic will immediately leave the role he has held since 2014, and overseen one of the team’s most successful eras, despite still having nine months remaining on his contract.
Gallop said the decision to fire Stajcic was made on the basis of two confidential surveys. One was conducted by Australia’s Professional Footballers Association and the other by Our Watch — a national organization which aims to end violence against women. There had also been conversations with players and team staff.
Gallop said while he could not provide specific details because of the need for confidentiality, the surveys had highlighted workplace and player welfare issues.
“It’s difficult to go into specifics because of the confidentiality arrangement around the surveys,” he said. “Ultimately the responsibility for changing cultures rests with the head coach.
“We no longer feel confident that Alen is the right person to lead the team and staff.”
Gallop said the survey findings were serious and indicated the situation within the Australia team had deteriorated in recent months.
“We’re not in a plateau position, we’re in a deteriorating position,” he said.
Stajcic had been informed of the FFA’s decision Saturday morning. He has yet to make any comment, but later Saturday received public support from Football Coach’s Australia, which said in a statement it will continue to support Stajcic, including “the facilitation of independent legal representation to assist (him) in exploring all available options.”
“Alen is a valued member of FCA and will receive our full support during this difficult period,” FCA President Phil Moss said. “Alen has overseen one of the most successful periods in Australian football history, having led the Matildas to the quarterfinals of the 2015 World Cup and 2016 Olympic Games, and the final of the 2018 Asian Cup, as well as being the inaugural winner of the Tournament of Nations in 2017.”
Ros Moriarty, Chair of the FFA Women’s Football Council, said the organization was unaware of the sudden decision to fire Stajcic.
“The FFA Women’s Council was not made aware of the intention to terminate Alen Stajcic’s contract, and will request full details of how stakeholder surveys escalated to a sudden sacking,” Moriarty said. “I would like to understand what specific feedback has left our national women’s team in a World Cup year, without the leader who has orchestrated their success over the past few years.”
Australia is due to play New Zealand, South Korea and Argentina in a Tournament of Nations in Australia from Feb. 8.
The Matildas will also face the United States in an exhibition before the World Cup in France in June. Australia is in a group with Italy, Jamaica and Brazil.
Stajcic became head coach in 2014 after Hesterine de Reus was fired following disputes with senior players.
In July, New Zealand fired its national women’s coach, Austria-born Andreas Heraf, after an investigation sparked by complaints from players about bullying and intimidation.
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