December 20, 2019 / 7:15 AM / a month ago

Soccer-Australia coaches query credibility of review

MELBOURNE, Dec 20 (Reuters) - A body representing Australia’s top soccer coaches has queried the integrity of a review into the country’s national teams after it found no agenda behind the termination of former women’s coach Alen Stajcic.

A three-person panel appointed by governing body Football Federation Australia (FFA) said on Thursday it had found no bias behind the January dismissal or any existence of a reported “lesbian mafia” that wanted Stajcic out of the job.

The panel’s chairwoman, Diane Smith-Gander, said on Friday Stajcic was not interviewed as part of the review.

That prompted Football Coaches Australia (FCA) to question how the panel had reached its conclusion without the input of Stajcic or any other coaches.

“If you’re going to do a case study around Alen’s sacking ... I would have thought you’d speak to Alen and all the other national team coaches involved,” FCA Chief Executive Glenn Warry told state radio on Friday.

“We weren’t consulted or interviewed as part of the review which is surprising as well.

“What we were looking for at the very start, when Alen was sacked, was transparency in the process moving forward.

“We were looking for due process for Alen at the time, procedural fairness and accountability. As to whether that’s been achieved by the review, we’re not too sure.”

Stajcic, now in charge of A-League club Central Coast Mariners, has declined to comment on the review, which has been called a “whitewash” by critics including Stefan Kamasz, a former boss of Football New South Wales, the sport’s governing body in Australia’s most populous state.

“Zero credibility. An absolute disgrace,” Kamasz tweeted.

Bonita Mersiades, a former FFA publicity chief, said it was a “failure”.

“This summary report does nothing to advance knowledge on the matters around that central issue,” she said, referring to Stajcic’s sacking.

The review has come under further scrutiny after local media published an excerpt of an email attributed to one of the panelists which suggested the FFA’s chairman had advised the panel not to interview Stajcic.

“I would still send the Stajcic reply to (FFA chairman) Chris Nikou and ask him to confirm his earlier advice not to interview him,” Fairfax media quoted panelist Rod McGeoch as saying in the email.

“It is a powerful response and if leaked after our final report would make quite a story.”

Smith-Gander said in a statement on Friday that Nikou had not instructed the panel to exclude Stajcic and that the coach had requested conditions to participate that could not be accepted.

She added that an email exchange between the panelists had “mistakenly” been leaked externally and to media.

“The NT (national teams) Review Panel was, at all times, able to undertake its work with full independence,” she said.

Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Peter Rutherford

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