NZF reviewing Football Ferns' allegations

Andreas Heraf. Photo: Getty Images
Andreas Heraf. Photo: Getty Images

Football Ferns coach Andreas Heraf could be suspended from his role, with New Zealand Football planning to launch an official investigation into his conduct and behaviour.

In a full-blown rebellion revealed by the Herald today, at least 10 players have submitted formal letters of complaint about Heraf.

The nature of the complaints are strictly confidential, but they are believed to include claims around bullying, intimidation and a culture of fear.

The squad includes a number of young female athletes, including some teenagers.

These letters have been collated by the New Zealand Professional Footballers Association (NZPFA), and sent on to NZF.

NZF issued a public response this morning, confirming the receipt of the letters and that there will be a press conference tomorrow.

The Herald understands that an inquiry will be announced. It is not known what the terms of reference will be and how wide the inquiry will go into recent events.

Heraf's likely suspension is standard practice in such employment investigations, especially considering the nature of the allegations. Whether this would apply to both his role coaching the Ferns and as NZF's technical director, is yet to be seen.

The players' claims relate to incidents on the Ferns tour to Spain in March, as well as the team's camp in Wellington leading up to the match against Japan earlier this month.

All the complainants, as well as other squad members, have told NZF they will not be available to represent the Ferns under Heraf, it is understood.

This is an unprecedented player rebellion at a New Zealand sports institution.

Other sports have had similar internal issues between players and coaches in the past, but never on this scale.

Severe pressure will now fall on the shoulders of NZF CEO Andy Martin.

He appointed Heraf and then controversially endorsed his move to Ferns coach last December, despite a clear conflict of interest.

Even more damming is Martin's inaction over a report filed by a senior member of the Ferns' management team after the tour to Spain in March.

As revealed by the Herald on Sunday, that report, which is believed to contain similar allegations and concerns to the ones made by the players this week, was shelved by Martin.

There was no action taken by NZF, and the report was also not formally presented to the NZF board.

By that inaction, Martin is alleged to have ignored - and maybe even worsened - significant player welfare issues.

Martin's conduct last week, when he fully endorsed Heraf and also told the media that there was no issues between the players and the coach, also now doesn't add up.

Last Thursday - after significant fallout following the insipid 3-1 loss to Japan - Martin told media that senior players were all behind Heraf, including the captain Ali Riley.

Subsequent events may contradict this.

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