After today’s sacking of Matildas coach Alen Stajcic – occurring just months away from the team’s World Cup campaign in France- a question over natural justice is raised.
In the most extraordinarily poorly-timed decision, a midday Saturday Football Federation of Australia press conference announced that the 45-year-old would not control the Matilda’s much anticipated tilt at World Cup Glory.
After four years of sustained success in the position, he led the team to a comfortable place inside the top ten ranked nations in women’s football.
However, the FFA has chosen to chart a new course both for the upcoming World Cup and the short term future of the women’s national team.
The reasons for his dismissal were identified as “workplace” and “player welfare” issues that have continued to deteriorate in recent times.
Those conclusions were born of two separate surveys – one driven by the players association and one under the auspices of the FFA.
Chief Executive David Gallop minced few words in delivering the news to the media and no doubt Stajcic, earlier in the day.
“Ultimately the responsibility for changing culture 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 use of such surveys or performance reviews are fraught with danger. Having now resigned from the education industry, I feel more comfortable recalling my experiences and expressing concerns over the negative treatment and sanctioning of professional people, based on nothing more than the opinion of others.
Hiding behind a veil of anonymity, modern school and university students raise grievances and concerns behind closed doors.
The accused is then rather hazily informed of the information, without any specifics detailed and asked to concoct strategies to deal with the situation.
The issues raised are often so vacuous they beggar belief. A student once informed my immediate superior that I had called her a ‘slut’ in my English class, after assigning her the role of Desdemona in Shakespeare’s play Othello.
A colleague of mine was once informed by a superior, that “3-5 students have come to see me over concerns in your teaching.” They refused to be named, nor wished to identify the specific concerns they had. Somehow, the teacher was expected to adapt. To what, I’m not sure.
Alen Stajcic probably feels somewhat similar right now. The confidential surveys obviously raise some specific concerns – but how much he knows about them, I am not too sure.
He is just another corporate victim in a modern and dangerous trend that permits fundamental questions to be raised in regards to the professionalism and aptitude of employees, with seemingly little space for a counter-argument or any form of natural justice.
The last thing Stajcic could be accused of is dereliction of duty from a coaching perspective. More likely, it appears that fractured relationships lie at the heart of the decision and his fall.
A frantic search for a new mentor is already underway and the momentous task of World Cup preparation needs to begin sooner rather than later. If this was a long term plan/agenda on behalf of the FFA, they could hardly have done it in a more untimely fashion.
What does appear certain is that having guided the Matildas to their highest ever position of fourth in the official FIFA rankings, Stajcic will leave his post with his head held high in terms of performances on the pitch.
This decision appears to have been made with off-field concerns at its core; concerns to which Alen Stajcic does not appear to have had the opportunity to respond.