Melbourne City pair Lachlan Wales and Nathaniel Atkinson, along with Perth Glory’s Brandon Wilson, were on Tuesday banned from international duty until August 10 – meaning they will not be part of next year’s Olympics should Australia qualify.
Adelaide United star Riley McGree, the Olyroos captain, recieved a more lenient suspension which expires on April 1 and would allow him to play at Tokyo 2020.
FFA punished the quartet for breaching their code of conduct having allegedly engaged in consensual sex with a Cambodian woman at the team’s hotel in the capital on the final night of their preliminary Olympic qualifying tournament, breaking a team curfew in the process.
McGree received a lighter sentence, FFA sources said, because he had left the hotel room earlier than the other three players, who are alleged to have subsequently kicked the woman out and left her stranded without arranging transport for her to return home.
The woman complained about her treatment by the players to the Australian embassy a week later, and was also concerned there were photos or videos taken of the encounter. FFA sources suggest the governing body was made aware of the claims once the team arrived back in Australia.
Those sources have also indicated chief executive David Gallop and Nikou launched an investigation into the incident, but not before notifying any other board members. The Herald sought comment from Nikou on Wednesday but did not receive a response.
A spokesperson for Adelaide United confirmed McGree would not appeal his ban, while the other three players were believed to be considering their options.
A spokesperson for FFA said the governing body was “unable to provide further comments regarding this matter at this time” because it was subject to appeal, and also out of respect to the complainant.
“A review of Australia’s national teams has been completed by an independent committee and is currently under review by the board,” the FFA spokesperson added, referring to the review instigated by the board in August which used the controversial sacking of former Matildas coach Alen Stajcic as a case study of sorts to examine the way national teams are managed and how issues of conduct, performance and information are handled by FFA.
Similiar questions about team culture will be raised by this latest incident which occurred on the watch of Socceroos coach Graham Arnold, who is also juggling a secondary role as Australia’s under-23s coach.
Last month, Arnold claimed he was not responsible for the actions of the players, saying: “Sometimes people take their own responsibility.”
Dominic Bossi is a football reporter with The Sydney Morning Herald.
Vince is a sports reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.