Alen Stajcic has moved on to coach the Central Coast Mariners. Picture: George Salpigtidis/AAP
Alen Stajcic has moved on to coach the Central Coast Mariners. Picture: George Salpigtidis/AAP

Matildas coach sacking inquiry failed to interview Stajcic

A MAJOR inquiry into Australia's national teams following the sacking of Alen Stajcic did not interview the former Matildas coach, after one of its members claimed it had been advised not to by Football Federation Australia.

After the key findings of the independent review into the management of Australia's national team were published on Thursday, The Daily Telegraph can reveal that at least one of its members questioned whether they should still interview Stajcic despite claiming to have received advice not to.

Now head coach of Central Coast Mariners in the A-League, Stajcic had offered to spend a day answering questions from the panel, citing 15 years working with various age groups in the female national teams.

The sacking of Stajcic in January sparked a tumultuous debate over the management of the FFA's national teams and the Matildas in particular, prompting FFA to commission the inquiry by a panel including ex-Basketball Australia chairwoman Diane Smith-Gander, netball star Liz Ellis and Sydney Olympics bid boss Rod McGeoch.

Though the inquiry began in mid-August, sources close to it say Stajcic was contacted at the start of October and asked to answer a series of written questions - two days before his team played in an FFA Cup semi-final.

In response he asked to address the panel in person, believing the questions needed more detailed answers, but requested to do so a fortnight later once the Mariners had a bye in the A-League.

The shadow of Alen Stajcic’s sacking still hangs heavy over the Matildas. Picture: Brett Costello
The shadow of Alen Stajcic’s sacking still hangs heavy over the Matildas. Picture: Brett Costello

Stajcic's offer to appear in person was declined for reasons of time, to which it's understood he said his desire had been to help the inquiry make appropriate recommendations.

At that point, McGeoch wrote to the other panel members saying that Stajcic had made "a powerful case" and suggesting sending it to FFA.

McGeoch also asked whether they should ask for confirmation of "earlier advice not to interview him (Stajcic) ... if leaked after our final report (it) would make quite a story".

The disclosure will raise major questions over the direction of an inquiry that was designed to draw a line under the Stajcic affair and ensure it would never be repeated.

FFA has consistently declined to say who the panel would interview, though it's believed all senior staff from the time of Stajcic's dismissal gave evidence, in the presence of lawyers taking notes.

Stajcic declined to comment when contacted by The Daily Telegraph, citing a confidentiality agreement signed with FFA in May when director Heather Reid was forced to issue a public apology for widespread comments about him on social media.

"The panel was empowered to interview current and former FFA staff, directors, as well as industry experts," an FFA spokesperson said. "FFA understands that Alen Stajcic was invited by the panel to participate in the review but elected not to do so.

"Any suggestion that FFA directed the panel not to interview Alen Stajcic is false."

In its report, the panel makes a lengthy list of recommendations into improving the culture and success of the national teams at all levels.

It includes detailed lines of accountability, ensuring women's teams have access to the same level of support, resources and staff pay as the men's teams, and recruiting staff who understand the differences in the support requirements of female athletes as part of a general boost for equity in the women's game.

More contentiously it also recommends the design of a national teams "Management Manual" that has "clear guidelines for support staff managing intra-team/squad player relationships" and also a "code of conduct for players and support staff, including guidelines around the consumption of alcohol during assembly".

In terms of Stajcic, the panel said it was "unable to uncover any evidence supporting the existence of any formal 'lesbian mafia' or that the decision to terminate the Matildas head coach contract was driven by personal bias against Mr Stajcic or in pursuit of other agendas".