Former Socceroo Craig Foster has renewed calls for an independent review into Football Federation Australia's handling of the Alen Stajcic saga – but warned against treating under-fire director Heather Reid as a scapegoat for what he says are much deeper issues.
Foster, a fierce critic of the current FFA administration's lack of transparency, believes it is the only way public trust can be restored in the sport's leadership.
We need answers: Craig Foster.Credit:AP
Supporters and pundits have again questioned why Stajcic was controversially removed as Matildas coach following the team's poor start to the Women's World Cup in France, with Sunday night's 1-0 defeat to Italy intensifying the pressure on the FFA board and management to provide answers.
A distraught Stajcic wanted a thorough investigation at the time of his sacking and while FFA said it would review its decision-making and processes, it would only do so internally, and not involve any external parties.
Foster said it was obvious an independent view was required but was disappointed the loss to Italy had become the trigger for fresh scrutiny from the public and media.
"The game requires insight into one of the most opaque, damaging decisions on a variety of levels in recent decades and team results should have no bearing on our expectations of management and board," Foster told the Herald.
Let’s enjoy the World Cup, cheer on a courageous (Matildas) group … and find out what the hell really happened afterwards.
"The game needs to learn that we cannot pick and choose when to demand accountability – we either expect it systematically, or it will be always denied when most needed.
"Serious questions remain that can only be answered by an independent investigation following the World Cup … that includes a full assessment of team and organisational culture and why various reviews were deemed necessary.
"Congress members should ensure preparations are made to deal with the issue from July 8. They’re responsible for selecting the board, after all and accountable to the community for its performance.
"Let’s enjoy the World Cup, cheer on a courageous group who deserve all our support for both their on and off-field courage, and find out what the hell really happened afterwards."
Foster, who ran a popular campaign in last year's FFA board elections but withdrew out of concern for the integrity of the process, said deputy chair Reid had "almost certainly" breached her duties as a director but that the focus on her obscured underlying issues.
"There has been a serious failure of leadership over the entire affair, that is evident," he said. "There should be nothing to hide and it’s in the interests of the board to ensure their conduct and that of management is ventilated and cleared."
Reid took a leave of absence after Stajcic's sacking to focus on her health challenges but has given no indication as to whether she plans to resign as a director or if she intends to continue serving on the board. Her presence in France – less than a fortnight after being forced to make a public apology to Stajcic – has added to the maelstrom, although FFA says Reid has privately funded her trip.
Former Adelaide United chairman Greg Griffin, meanwhile, is continuing his own push for clarity. Griffin is the chair of the newly-established FFA compliance committee which was last week denied access to documents relating to the board's move to axe Stajcic on January 19.
Rejecting the request on behalf of the board, FFA CEO David Gallop wrote that it was "misconceived" because the decision did not involve a complaint or FFA's complaint procedures.
Griffin was awaiting the return of FFA chairman Chris Nikou from France before pursuing the matter further. "I have not withdrawn my request," Griffin said on Wednesday.
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