We're Starting To Understand Why The Matildas Coach Was Sacked

Matildas head coach Alen Stajcic was sacked three days ago after five years in charge, and until now, it was unclear why.

Under Stajcic, the Matildas rose from 11th in the official FIFA rankings to 6th, a position they still occupy in this, a World Cup year.

So why was the man largely credited for their rise cast aside with the World Cup less than six months away ?

Football Federation Australia chief David Gallop avoided answering that question in a press conference on Saturday, citing a confidentiality agreement. That meant fans remained in the dark about the Stajcic situation.

Alen Stajcic.

But details have now emerged from a process called the "Matildas Wellbeing Audit" which point to the reasons behind the sacking.

ABC sports journalist Tracey Holmes reported on Tuesday afternoon that two surveys which were part of the audit had unearthed what she called "a culture of fear and unacceptable levels of stress among the players".

"While there is no suggestion of any sexual or physical impropriety in this case, the ABC understands the Our Watch report highlights a culturally unsustainable environment," Holmes wrote.

The surveys were conducted by the players' union and by a group called Our Watch -- whose Equality and Respect in Sport Program (ERiS) aims to assist national sporting organisations to promote gender equality.

FFA CEO David Gallop has been tight-lipped on the reasons behind the sacking.

According to Holmes, players were asked a series of questions under specific headings including Health & Wellbeing, Psychological Distress, Psychological Safety and Player Insights.

"Fewer than 20 percent of them said they felt the team environment was conducive to making them better players or people," she reported.

"A quarter of the players who responded reported feeling psychological distress and many were afraid to seek support, believing it would be held against them," Holmes also wrote in her story.

10 daily contacted Our Watch to seek further information about the contents of the survey.

They would not reveal any specifics about the workplace culture, or indeed any other details, however they did explain that:

  • Our Watch and FFA had initial conversations about working together in 2018. Later in the year, when Our Watch’s Equality and Respect in Sport program had capacity to support another sporting organisation, FFA were approached.
  • Like other sporting organisations, Our Watch will work with FFA to support the organisation to ensure inclusive, equitable, healthy and safe environments for their staff, players, referees, volunteers and fans.
  • As a first-step in a wide-ranging ERiS program, Our Watch supported FFA to undertake an internal, confidential survey to understand the current experience of staff, contractors and players.
  • The survey is entirely confidential to protect the anonymity of the people involved.
  • Our Watch will work with FFA on their response to the survey findings. This may include training, development of strategies, action plans and use of other proven techniques to create safe, equal and respectful workplaces.
  • Through the Department of Social Services funded National Sporting Initiative, Our Watch works with a number of sporting organisations including, Rugby Australia, NRL and AFL. Our Watch has been working with professional sport since our inception in 2014.
The Matildas after their match against Chile in late 2018.

10 daily also contacted some Matildas players from recent years, none of whom would comment about the survey or the sacking of Alen Stajcic.

We did, however, assemble a picture of a man who spoke honestly to players about football issues, and who was deeply trusted and respected by most in the game.

The sentiment of respect was echoed by numerous players this week, including by Matildas superstar Sam Kerr.