New Zealand Football technical director steps down amid bullying claims
The most powerful coach at New Zealand Football has been stood down following a player revolt over his methods.
NZF on Wednesday announced an independent investigation into Andreas Heraf, who doubles as the national women's coach and the country's technical director, overseeing the progress of all national teams.
Experienced Austrian coach Heraf has been placed on "special leave" from his roles until the completion of a review into the environment at the Football Ferns.
Thirteen members the squad had signed a letter given to NZF on Tuesday complaining about the coaching methods and behaviour of 50-year-old Heraf, who took up the women's role late last year.
The players have said they don't want to play under Heraf as coach.
The allegations against Heraf reportedly relate to bullying, intimidation and creating a culture of fear.
NZF president Deryck Shaw said it was disappointing the disaffected players had reached a point where there was nowhere else to go.
"We hold player welfare as a matter of utmost importance and that is why we are conducting a thorough, independent review," Shaw said.
"There is no place for inappropriate behaviour of any kind with NZF. We are focused on creating an environment which gives the Football Ferns, and all of our national teams, the best chance of winning on the world stage."
The controversy comes just a month after NZF made international headlines by announcing a pay parity deal which aligned the women with the national men's team.
Heraf's coaching methods came under the spotlight this month when his team adopted a defensive approach in a 3-1 home loss to Japan.
He defended the tactics, saying there was "a big difference in quality" between 20th-ranked New Zealand and world No.11 Japan, believing they could have lost 8-0 if they'd adopted an attacking approach.
The comments were too much for former captain Abby Erceg, who unexpectedly retired following a training camp under Heraf in March.