19 Jun 2018

Independent investigation into Football Ferns on the way

5:10 pm on 19 June 2018

An independent investigation into Football Ferns coach Andreas Heraf is imminent after formal complaints from several players.

Football Ferns coach Andreas Heraf.

Football Ferns coach Andreas Heraf. Photo: Photosport

Understood to outline issues with the team culture and environment under Heraf's leadership, New Zealand Football confirmed they had received a letter from the New Zealand Professional Footballers Association (NZPFA) on Monday night spelling out the players' concerns.

NZF said they were reviewing the complaints "as a matter of priority".

NZPFA chief executive Harry Ngata said they wanted an independent investigation to take place, and RNZ understands that this is inevitable.

A decision on what action NZF will take is expected to be reached on Tuesday night, with an announcement likely to take place on Wednesday.

It is not yet known if Heraf, who also oversees the direction and development of football in the country as NZF's technical director, will stay in either role in any capacity if an investigation is confirmed.

The players' official complaints follow the fallout from the Football Ferns recent loss to Japan in Wellington when Heraf made controversial and negative comments post-match about the quality of his players and their inability to match the Japanese.

It is understood incidents during the players' time in camp for that fixture compounded issues that had arisen during their trip to Spain in March for a pair of friendly matches against Scotland.

The situation was believed to have reached a breaking point for one player, whose decision to make an official complaint resulted in several others coming forward to do the same.

The Football Ferns do battle with Japan in Wellington.

The Football Ferns do battle with Japan in Wellington. Photo: Photosport

Speaking to media on Friday last week, New Zealand Football chief executive Andy Martin largely defended Heraf.

Although he apologised for some of Heraf's "strange" post-match comments, Martin maintained there were no issues between the coach and the Ferns, apparently dismissing concerns raised by former players.

"Clearly, we played a negative style of football but let's keep it in context, we lost a game of football.

"I'm not defending the comments afterwards, it was clumsy and certainly not what I would expect one of my staff to talk to.

"We'll make sure that doesn't happen again but I don't think that was what was intended.

"Will we perform at the World Cup with the negative style of football we saw last week? Absolutely not."

Martin said the Ferns were going through a necessary "change programme" given their failure to win games at pinnacle events in the past.

"In hindsight, in a home game was that a smart move? Given the opposition, he's obviously made a judgement call," Martin said.

"But I don't expect us to be playing that style of football, I expect our teams to have a strong never-say-die Kiwi attitude.

"We have someone with real capability and he has to perform ... Our job is to support him and give him every opportunity."

NZF said a further statement would be issued on Wednesday morning.