How often does the story of a smiling woman photographed in France make the headlines? Rarely, if at all, but your odds will go up if your name is Heather Reid.
Eyebrows were raised when Football Federation Australia director Heather Reid was snapped smiling in France where she was invited by FIFA to attend its women’s football convention on the eve of the women’s World Cup.
Reid, who is currently taking sick leave from the FFA board as she recovers from endometrial cancer, covered the cost of her own flights and accommodation and made the decision to take the holiday following her doctor’s recommendation.
But once the Matildas suffered a shock loss to Italy in its opening match on Sunday night, all hell broke loose. Many took to social media to blame the loss on her and her involvement in the unceremonious sacking of former Matildas coach Alen Stajcic just six months before the World Cup.
How dare she be over there in France, smiling, enjoying herself when she is to blame for the Matilda’s loss, many football fans said, seething. She was the one that got him sacked after all, right?
Let’s rewind for a moment.
In a statement, FFA said it made the decision to sack Stajcic because the board formed the view that the Matildas would benefit from a new coach for the FIFA World Cup in France.
As a board director, Reid had a say in his sacking, but she wasn’t the only one to cut the coach’s contract. Stajic’s contract was terminated by the board “exercising its contractual right of termination by making a pre-agreed payment in lieu of notice”. Boards act as a whole, not as individuals and they are obliged to do so by their charter of operations.
Reid’s unnecessary involvement was in the comments she made suggesting the public would be “shocked” if they knew the truth. She told the media Stajcic should never work in the women’s game again. She has since publicly apologised for these statements.
She has not apologised for her role in the sacking of Stajcic and why should she? The board stands by its decision. All she has apologised for are the comments she made about Stajcic. Public baying for more blood is unnecessary and will achieve precisely nothing for our World Cup campaign.
Why can’t we throw our support behind the Matildas regardless of a win, loss or a draw, rather than looking for someone to blame?