Heraf departure ends sorry chapter

Andreas Heraf. Photo: Getty Images
Andreas Heraf. Photo: Getty Images
Andreas Heraf's departure brings to an end a sorry, sad chapter for New Zealand Football.

The Austrian resigned today from his roles as national technical director and Football Ferns coach yesterday, just over a month after he had been suspended and put on special leave, with full pay.

That suspension was a result of 12 Ferns' players submitting letters of complaint about their coach, with all kinds of damming allegations around the environment and culture under Heraf.

Though he claimed, to an Austrian newspaper, that it was all just a "conspiracy theory" from players who couldn't handle his "European style" methods, that was always hard to believe.

Instead, the players' claims were the culmination of a series of issues with Heraf, and not just in his role as Ferns coach.

Heraf arrived in the country last August, and what followed were 11 tumultuous, turbulent months.

From the start Heraf won few friends.

The New Zealand Herald understands that at one of the first ISPS Handa Premiership games in Auckland he attended Heraf was overheard making disparaging comments about both the standard of football and the coaching.

The 50-year-old also upset staff and coaches at the Ole Academy in Wellington, which is recognized as one of the leading football academies in the country.

Heraf insisted NZF should fund a `bricks and mortar' national academy – "just like Austria" – and also implemented a highly unpopular playing style across all national age group sides, which put a handbrake on all the gains made over the last few years and the philosophies espoused in NZF's Whole of Football plan.

Heraf also oversaw the flawed appointment process for the All Whites coach.

He insisted, strenuously and aggressively, on a Fifa Pro Licence being one of the most important elements for the role, but never really explained why.

The supposed worldwide search also ended up with the surprise choice of Fritz Schmid, who just happened to be a former colleague and friend of Heraf.

But perhaps the low point of Heraf's reign was taking the Ferns job last December.

The twin roles created an instant conflict of interest, as has been exposed over the last few months, and also showed a lack of respect for the specialized demands of either position.

The fact that Heraf had never coached a women's team – and thought he could take over a side ranked in the top 20 in the world – was also curious.

From there things went from bad to worse.

The issues on the Ferns' March tour to Spain, the re-retirement of Abby Erceg, the negative tactics and bizarre post-match comments following the loss to Japan in Wellington.

Heraf, who had, to his credit, always been readily available to the media during his tenure, has been off the grid since his suspension.

He wasn't available yesterday, and declined to comment last Friday when the New Zealand Herald called to discuss his future.

However he did conduct a wide-ranging interview with Austria's Der Standard earlier this month, which he used to question the Ferns' lack of commitment and professionalism.

"The players oppose my European style, with high standards and high expectations of professionalism, and prefer a fun and family culture with a focus on making fun videos and opening up to social networking," he told the publication.

New Zealand Football President Deryck Shaw confirmed Heraf's resignation on Tuesday afternoon.

He noted that "part of the resignation is that Andreas has confirmed that he will fully participate in the review and we will look to the findings of the review to determine the outcomes around this matter".

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