Sacked For 'Poor Culture' By An Organisation Whose Culture Is Even Poorer
Former Matildas coach Alen Stajcic faced the media today. And he didn't hold back.
A sigh. A sip of water. A cheek scratch.
Face red. Eyes down. Bigger sigh. Nose scratch. Another sip of water.
Former Matildas coach Alen Stajcic cut both a defiant and forlorn figure at today's press conference, at which he read the 1,667-word statement which he'd released earlier as an open letter to the Australian football community.
Here, for the world to see, was a man who was beyond angry. A man beyond wanting his name cleared and his reputation restored. Like football fans across Australia, here was a man who wanted answers.
Why had he been sacked? What exactly was in the reports that emerged after two surveys into the Matildas' team culture that resulted in his dismissal?
"I wish to state categorically that, during my time as Matildas Head Coach... I have never witnessed, never participated in, and never acquiesced to the participation of others in any impropriety or misconduct," Stajcic said.
He said these words slowly so that everyone could grasp their meaning. He had committed no impropriety. There had been no misconduct. And he had not the faintest understanding of why he was cast aside after taking the Matildas from 11th to 6th in the world, all the while having the respect and public backing of numerous senior players.
Another sip of water. Face getting redder by the minute.
Around the time of the sacking, the FFA said its decision was based on two surveys filled in by Matildas players and staff. One was "a wellbeing audit" from the players' group, the Professional Footballers Australia (PFA). The other was from the anti-domestic violence group Our Watch.
Stajcic explained today that he'd asked for a copy of the report that came from the PFA survey. He said he questioned "the validity, reliability and integrity of the results on multiple occasions".
Head tilted now, as though the weight of disbelief actually had a mass. Face even redder. Eyes starting to water.
"At no time... has the FFA afforded me any opportunity, courtesy or fairness in allowing me to respond to any of the findings which it considered in deciding to terminate my employment.
"Leaving aside the understandable supposition and conjecture in the media and on social media, I remain 'in the dark' about exactly how the FFA arrived at the decision to terminate my employment.
"I have no way of knowing whether the information presented to the FFA’s Board in relation to this matter, has any truth or substance to it."
And neither does anyone else in Australia, except a select few within the FFA. And that's why Stajcic is not the only exasperated person in this saga.
A pause. A cheek scratch. A big audible sigh.
"Look, at the end of the day I'm here to clear my name," Stajcic said in response to a reporter's question after he'd read his prepared statement.
"I was terminated without cause and no actions or behaviours of misconduct were attributed to me.
"I think clarity and transparency is a big issue, otherwise we wouldn't be sitting here. There has been a lack of clarity, a lack of transparency, certainly a lack of due process."
That's the part that irks people in all of this.
Imagine if a successful and popular manager in your workplace was sacked on a Saturday morning, barely half a day after they were dragged before management, having never had anything but praise for their performance.
It doesn't add up. Workplaces issues tend to make themselves apparent well before a sacking occurs.
And it's precisely because of this opaque situation that Stajcic feels so personally compromised, with his reputation -- as he put it -- "in tatters".
"The speculation and innuendo that I've heard that 'he must have done something' is the part that has really ruined my reputation, Stajcic said.
And then, hand trembling, he had another sip of water. And sniffed. And sighed his biggest sigh yet.
And left the room to await -- he hopes, we all hope -- a response from the FFA that clarifies the situation.