Australian soccer’s internal politics is threatening to overshadow next week’s unveiling of the plan to maximise long-term benefit from hosting the women’s soccer World Cup.
- Heather Reid was narrowly voted off the Football Australia board on Friday after a motion was put forward by Football NSW, with several abstentions
- The move comes days before the FA unveils the Women’s World Cup Legacy Program, a key feature of which is women’s leadership within the sport
- Reid was highlighted by supporters of former Matildas coach Alen Stajcic as being key to his sacking
Australia’s most recognised female football administrator, Heather Reid, will not be at Parliament House with Football Australia (FA) officials when details of the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup Legacy Program are announced.
Reid was voted off the FA board at an extraordinary general meeting of the sport’s Congress on Friday in a 51-49 per cent split.
The motion was put forward by Football NSW.
No reasons have been given for the move against her, although several sources have told the The Ticket it is over historic grievances.
Ironically, the World Cup legacy program highlights women’s leadership as a key area.
If delivered successfully it will have a lasting impact across a range of areas including tourism, infrastructure (only one in five grounds in Australia has female change rooms), diversity, and women’s international leadership around the region.
Australia is a member of the Asian Football Confederation, which was recently found guilty of gender discrimination, interference and denial of justice.
While not willing to discuss the Reid dismissal because “it is a matter for the members of the Congress”, Football Australia boss, James Johnson, says “there is still work to do” regarding women in the global game.
Despite Australia being recognised as setting a benchmark for the region, women in the game are subjected to a different standard of accountability.
“What we think we’re going to be able to get out of these programs in legacy are going to be able to help solve that problem,” Johnson said.
“That’s really what we’re trying to do here.
“We do want funding to be able to go to the next generation of women leaders so we can prepare women, so that we can give more confidence to women, so when we create more opportunities for women … there are more women who can step into these roles.”
Stajcic controversy continues to bubble
Reid’s CV includes being National Executive Director of the Australian Women’s Soccer Association, the first female chief executive of a state football federation, and a member of the 2015 AFC Asian Cup organising committee.
Together with a group of women from around the world, she lobbied FIFA to have a World Cup for women and for the International Olympic Committee to include women’s football in their program.
In November 2018, Reid was voted to the board of the FA.
Shortly after, in January 2019, coach of the Matildas women’s football team, Alen Stajcic, was sacked after two damning reports into team culture.
Stajcic himself allegedly described the team environment as “dysfunctional” and “cancerous” in a meeting with the sport’s chief executive before his termination.
Despite it being a unanimous board decision to axe him, one board member in particular was targeted and blamed by Stajcic’s supporters, Heather Reid.
It was not the first time she had experienced a smear campaign.
In 2016 she won a defamation case against Stan Dukic, a life member of the Croatia Deakin club who for two years made what Justice John Burns of the ACT Supreme Court described as ‘baseless allegations’ about Reid on his Facebook page.
Dukic has since been expelled from the club.
In the aftermath of the Stajcic sacking, Reid was interviewed by the Sydney Morning Herald and made comments for which she later “unconditionally apologised”, recognising they had caused “damage, distress and hurt” to the former Matildas coach.
FA board member previously called for transparency over Stajcic sacking
On numerous occasions, both on social media and in football media interviews, another of Australia’s most credentialed football administrators, Stefan Kamasz, accused Football Australia executives of being “misinformed, totally mismanaged and flawed”.
Kemasz has formerly held positions such as director of the Australian Soccer Federation, general manager of the National Soccer League and team manager of the Socceroos.
According to an interview on the ftbl.com.au website on February 11, 2019, Kemasz “demanded answers from the newly-elected FFA board over how the debacle [Statjcic’s sacking] has unfolded”.
“The recent sacking has raised the ire of many football fans, female players and ex-players, including former and current Matildas,” Kamasz said.
“The board has yet to provide clear, transparent reasons why. Although it seems impossible Stajcic will be reinstated, the football public is demanding answers.
“I and many other football followers are demanding answers.”
On Twitter, he described the handling of the coach’s sacking as “a tawdry affair” and, “when all the information comes out, as it will, people including the board will be disgusted”.
“No processes, collusion re evidence, no natural justice, fall guys.”
He suggested: “This issue should never have reached the board, some of whom were subsequently made aware of the “conspiracy” to replace Stajcic.
“HR must go as well as some management.
“Stajcic wants the truth out, including the context in which those words ‘dysfunctional’ and ‘cancerous’ were used and the reasons why.”
Mr Kemasz is now in a position to hand over all the information he said would leave the FA board “disgusted” as well as details of what he described as the “conspiracy” to sack Stajcic because, since November 2020, he has been an FA board member.
He was nominated by Football NSW, where he was previously an interim chief executive.
It was also Football NSW that requested last Friday’s extraordinary general meeting where they proposed the motion to have Reid removed from the board.
That motion succeeded by the narrowest of margins, with several abstentions.
Despite leaving several messages for the president of Football NSW, Anter Isaac, he did not return calls from The Ticket.
Kamasz was also unavailable for interview.
His tweets are no longer online because he deleted his account before being nominated to the FA board.