FFA finds new ways to shoot itself in the foot

Under the Lowy administration – father (Frank) and son (Steven) – the FFA often seemed to find new, amusing and sometimes astonishing ways to shoot itself in the foot.

But under new chairman Chris Nikou and the newly elected board – appointed, let's not forget, as a ''cleanskin'' administration committed to openness, transparency and reconnecting with the football family – the degree of self-inflicted damage has gone to new levels, particularly in the case of sacked Matildas coach Alen Stajcic.

Alen Stajcic fronted the media on Monday alongside coaches’ association boss Phil Moss.Credit:AAP

There has been speculation that CEO David Gallop might be in the firing line as a result of the fallout from the decision, although a board statement issued just before 6pm on Monday indicated that Nikou, Gallop and their colleagues were going to tough things out and ride through the storm of public disapproval about the lack of reasons given for the dismissal of the Matildas' most successful coach.

That disquiet was only fanned into further flame earlier in the day when Stajcic finally broke cover for the first time since he was dismissed on January 19.

He had maintained a dignified silence until Monday when, with exquisite timing (he would have known the board was due to meet later that day) he held a press conference to outline his grievances.

Stajcic stressed that all he was after were reasons for why he had been sacked, his family damaged and his career left in tatters with no explanation. He presented as a picture of grace under pressure, resolutely refusing to condemn those who had thrown him under a bus: it contrasted starkly with the ''ignore it and it might go away'' approach the FFA has adopted in the past three weeks as the firestorm has erupted around them.

Gallop, a vastly experienced CEO, has been the focus of criticism as the public face of the organisation. It was the he who delivered the news of Stajcic's sacking before, two days later, presiding over a shambles of a press conference that shed no further light on the situation and left media and the public sniffing a rat and demanding answers.

The public is still waiting to know.

The FFA's statement on Monday stressed that it didn't agree with many of the points Stajcic made at his media call.

Once more, however, it said it wouldn't be giving any details, citing a need to protect the anonymity of those who contributed to the Our Watch survey, which was one of the key factors in the board deciding there needed to be a change.

Anonymity is clearly a characteristic on which some of the FFA management pride themselves given the invisibility during this period of Emma Highwood, an English soccer administrator who has risen rapidly through the FFA ranks to become head of women's soccer.

Surely she, more than anyone, should have had her finger on the pulse if Stajcic really had presided over the creation of a ''toxic culture'', as he stands accused of doing.

At least Gallop has had the grace to be seen in public and try to deal with the incredulity of the public and media who have sought details of Stajcic's alleged indiscretions for several weeks.

Through all of it Highwood has failed to emerge from her bunker and face questioning as to her knowledge or role in the decision to get rid of the coach.

And what of the involvement of advocacy group Our Watch?

Whose idea was it to get Our Watch to poll the players – and seemingly friends, relatives, mates or anyone else who could get access to the supposedly confidential Survey Monkey online questionnaire and weigh in with their considered opinion on the coach's failings?

In so many ways this self-made crisis is a metaphor for the way the FFA has operated for years: lack of clarity, lack of transparency and lack of judgment.

They are entitled to stick to their guns and wear the consequences.

But until full details are given – and people can judge whether Stajcic failed in the way the FFA contends and the sacking was justified  – trust in the board and management will further erode.

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