Stajcic had been asked to make a written submission but instead wanted to spend a full day with the panel, in the presence of his lawyers, and provided other stipulations that the panel deemed to be unworkable.
“I would still send the Stajcic reply to Chris Nikou and ask him to confirm his earlier advice not to interview him. It is a powerful response and if leaked after our final report would make quite a story. That concerns me a little . Happy to discuss,” McGeoch’s email said.
In a statement, Smith-Gander described as “entirely inaccurate” any suggestion that Nikou instructed the panel not to interview Stajcic, and said a prior email exchange had been interpreted wrongly by one of the panel members.
“Mr Stajcic requested a set of conditions to participate in the review that could not be accepted. The NT Review Panel informed the FFA Chairman of its intention not to interview Mr Stajcic via email and the FFA Chairman acknowledged this by reply,” Smith-Gander said.
“Unfortunately, this email exchange was mischaracterised by a member of the NT Review Panel and, mistakenly, an external party became in receipt in of this email exchange. It now appears this email exchange has come into the hands of the media.”
Now in charge of the Central Coast Mariners, Stajcic has declined to comment on the review, from which a 10-page summary report and long list of recommendations was released publicly on Thursday.
If you’re going to do a case study around Alen’s sacking … I would have thought you’d speak to Alen.
Football Coaches Australia chief executive Glenn Warry
But the advocacy body for Australian coaches, of which Stajcic is a member, is perplexed as to why it had not been asked to contribute.
Football Coaches Australia (FCA) had originally criticised the terms of reference for the review as “too narrow” in August, when they were released, saying it did not give scope for the involvement of Stajcic or other ex-FFA employees or permit third-party submissions.
The terms of reference also made it clear that FFA’s decision to remove Stajcic was not the subject of a review, but that the saga was to be used “as an example to shed light” on questions of process within the federation.
“I’m just going on the facts that are presented in front of us – the review was based on a case study around Alen Stajcic’s sacking,” FCA chief executive Glenn Warry told ABC Radio National on Friday morning.
“If you’re going to do a case study around Alen’s sacking … I would have thought you’d speak to Alen and all the other national team coaches involved.
“We weren’t consulted or interviewed as part of the review which is surprising as well.
“What we were looking for at the very start, when Alen was sacked, was transparency in the process moving forward. We were looking for due process for Alen at the time, procedural fairness and accountability. As to whether that’s been achieved by the review, we’re not too sure.”
FCA is explicitly mentioned within the summary report, which recommends the body be involved in a process to “reinforce leading practice” around the implementation of player leadership groups for all national teams.
Warry also said he was “surprised” that, in light of the review’s terms of reference, the executive summary of the report declared there was no “personal bias” behind the decision to sack Stajcic and dispelled the notion of a “formal ‘lesbian mafia'” that was alleged to have worked to achieve that outcome.
In a separate statement to the Herald, Warry said: “This has therefore focused all of the media conversation negatively on the past rather than how all football stakeholders move together collaboratively to ensure best policies and practice for national teams.”
Warry said FCA was largely accepting of the report’s conclusions. It recommends that football take on an “athlete-centric” approach, demands an immediate audit of pay and conditions to ensure equity for men’s and women’s teams, clear reporting lines within the FFA’s board and management, a “robust” player complaints procedure, an official whistleblower policy, and for a zero-tolerance policy for repeated incidents of poor conduct from players, coaches and staff.
“In order to achieve best practice, coaches, along with players, are the most important stakeholders moving forward,” Warry said.
“The best leaders care about their people holistically and our national team coaches drive this relationship with their players.
“Taking on board all that, we look forward to the new FFA CEO commencing and FCA working with FFA, PFA and other football stakeholders to best support national team coaches, players and staff.”
Vince is a sports reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.