Australia women's coach Alen Stajcic sacked

SYDNEY (AP) — Australia women's football coach Alen Stajcic has been sacked only five months out from the Women's World Cup at which the Matildas will start as one of six seeded teams.

Football Federation Australia chief executive David Gallop told a news conference Saturday that Stajcic will immediately leave the role he has held since 2014, during which he has guided the Australia team through one of its most successful eras.

Gallop said the decision to sack Stajcic was made on the basis of two confidential surveys, one conducted by Australia's Professional Footballers Association and another by Our Watch — a national organization which aims to end violence against women. There had also been conversations with players and team staff.

Gallop said while he could not provide specific details because of the need for confidentiality, the surveys had highlighted workplace and player welfare issues.

"It's difficult to go into specifics because of the confidentiality arrangement around the surveys," he said. "Ultimately the responsibility for changing cultures rests with the head coach.

"We no longer feel confident that Alen is the right person to lead the team and staff."

Gallop said the survey findings were serious and indicated the situation within the Australia team had deteriorated in recent months.

"We're not in a plateau position, we're in a deteriorating position," he said.

Stajcic had been informed of the FFA's decision Saturday morning. He has yet to make any comment.

Gallop said Stajcic's contract "was terminated in accordance with provisions that exist in the contract to take this kind of action."

Australia is due to play New Zealand, South Korea and Argentina in a Tournament of Nations in Australia from Feb. 8.

It will also face the United States in a friendly before the World Cup in France in June in which it has been drawn in a group with Italy, Jamaica and Brazil.

Stajcic became Australia coach in 2014 after his predecessor, Hesterine de Reus, was sacked after disputes with senior players. He guided Australia to the quarterfinals of the 2015 World Cup and 2016 Olympic Games. Australia is currently ranked sixth in the world.

In July, New Zealand sacked its national women's coach, Austria-born Andreas Heraf, after an investigation sparked by complaints from players about bullying and intimidation.

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