The ‘he said, she said’ between the The FAI and Vera Pauw has sparked into life, with the FAI’s Chief Executive Jonathan Hill and Director of Football Marc Canham addressing why the Dutch woman wasn’t offered a new contract.
Speaking at their press conference yesterday, Hill and Canham outlined the findings of their internal review conducted after the World Cup, offering an alternative viewpoint to that put forward by the former Irish WNT manager in her immediate statement, as well as during an exclusive RTE interview after her dismissal.
With contrasting recollections of proceedings between both parties, onlookers are left with more questions than answers as to what really happened.
Hersport.ie have provided the two sides of the story here for you to decipher for yourself, touching on the main points of contention ranging from the validity of the review, to the extent of the contract negotiations, to how involved the FAI executives were at the Australia and New Zealand World Cup, to the role The Athletic article played and the differences which ultimately saw The FAI and Vera Pauw part ways.
The ultimate he said, she said.
While “the detailed findings and specifics of the review are confidential”, Hill did explore the process on a basic level yesterday. The FAI Chief Executive outlined that “over 30 one-on-one in-depth interviews among players, team staff and wider personnel” were involved, speaking to Pauw herself on two occasions.
The now ex Irish WNT manager however had accused the process as being “flawed”, with the outcome “predetermined”, and she even questioned whether Canham as the FAI’s technical director was qualified to execute it.
“He's not trained to make reviews and he was part of the process, so the assignment on the technical director is something that...to do a review, immediately starting, while still in camp after the Nigeria game, is something you cannot reflect” she said.
“The evaluation has not been done, and he started with my assistant. First my assistant, then the communications manager, and I came in as the third person. I felt immediately that my assistant had set the benchmark with things that were absolutely ridiculous. For example he said there was no communication, we did not discuss things. Every morning we had a staff meeting and every single detail of my task was discussed, from the setup of the training sessions to the game plan, the strategies.”
Canham, was adamant that the FAI had “several conversations with Vera at the start of the process”, going as far to say that “she was the first person we spoke to”, in direct contradiction of Pauw’s account.
In relation to his ability to carry out the procedure, he listed his credentials in the footballing world and emphasised that he has been in this bubble for a year now, and is in with regular contact with players and staff. As to why it was an internal as opposed to an external review, he pointed out that “ it is normal practice for us to conduct reviews after each window” and given his role, that it would fall under his responsibility.
Hill also responded to those claims, saying that “the outcome of this review was not predetermined, as has been suggested, nor was it designed in any way to be a critical review of the manager herself. It was simply about reflecting on the World Cup campaign in its entirety and establishing what is best for this team and for women’s and girls’ football going forward, and us getting as many valuable perspectives as we could.”
“I think the players were very comfortable with Marc conducting to review. As I said earlier, and hopefully the players will talk to that next week as well, I think they feel very comfortable that they are able to speak to senior people within the FAI, including Marc, in a way that perhaps in the past they wouldn't have felt comfortable with, or indeed be given the chance to speak to. That cuts across a whole variety of issues. I think the relationship there remains very positive but also very professional.”
He added that he believed their was a “fair and balanced review process” in which “high level themes in relation to football matters in particular which emerged from the report, including some recurring themes such as training methods, and the style and nature of sessions, and approaches to fitness and conditioning.”
Ultimately it was understood from the FAI’s point of view that Pauw “ was not going to change her fundamental approach” Hill said, and therefore didn’t align with the long term vision and development of the association as a result.
IT’S OFFICIAL…Vera Pauw’s time as the Ireland WNT Team Manager has come to an end after the FAI chose not to renew her contract.
Here are our top five moments of her Irish career.
A figure who will go down in Irish football history. Thanks for the memories Vera 💚#VeraPauw pic.twitter.com/2ivD29K104
— Her Sport (@HerSportDotIE) August 29, 2023
The Contract Negotiations Between The FAI And Vera Pauw
In her statement, as well as in the RTE interview in which she broke her silence, Pauw provided a summary of her timeline of events corresponding to her contract negotiations, or lack thereof.
She claims she entered into those talks with the FAI in early March and that she was confident they would be wrapped up in a brisk manner, but that she requested the decision be finalised before the squad jetted off Down Under.
There was however, in her opinion, a U turn of sorts in that regard.
“Despite committing to issuing an offer to me, the FAI re-considered their stated position and I never received the promised offer. I parked the contract discussions while we were in Australia, as my sole focus was the team and the competition” she said.
"If you don’t want that then I understand but just say no to me and say it before we leave for Australia. I am a professional, I will give my all but then it’s clear and everybody will know what’s going on. I would have accepted and understood it.”
Pauw also told RTE that she had received two offers for other positions in the meantime, and that the late announcement that she wouldn’t be continuing as manager of the Irish team inhibited her from entering into those conversations.
“Now all the places are occupied, and I have said no to two offers - one was better than the other but I've said no because I was with Ireland and I would keep going. But after it was known [she would not be staying on], within a day I have been called by AFC [Asian Football Confederation] because they are so astonished about the development of Ireland that they wanted me to teach a course in Bangkok to their tutors of Pro License and A License and to explain how we did it, what steps, what methods and so on” she said.
In response, Hill described that “at no point was a contract offer ever presented to Vera or to Vera Pauw’s representative, or more importantly put in front of the FAI board for consideration, as it would be they would ultimately have to agree to approve any such offer.”
“It is correct to say that that FAI, through myself, had been open to exploring a potential contract extension with Vera, although to be clear in both December of last year and January of this year, it was mutually agreed between myself and Vera that the focus should be solely on World Cup preparation and not on contract discussions.
“In March however, Vera indicated that she was happy to start discussions on a new contract if the FAI was, following which, initial informal conversations were had with Vera and thereafter with her representative Ciaran Medlar. Those informal conversations did not progress to the point where a formal offer was presented either to Vera or Ciaran Medlar and in advance of the World Cup we decided to pause discussions on a contract renewal…and then to conduct an fill review of the entire World Cup campaign after the tournament.”
He did, however, elaborate further on that in the question portion of the press conference.
“I told Vera we were, and she knew this, we were discussing and hoping to send an initial offer in relation a contract renewal” he said.
“On June 12th we became aware of the issues in relation to the Athletic and as I said in my introduction, there were a number of things in that period which was a really intense period, I did sit down with Vera and talk those through. We talked around the issues in relation to the Athletic and where we’d got to on that.
“I told her, as I said before, that we felt in the best interest of her and the team, and everyone preparing for the World Cup, that we’d park those conversations until after the World Cup.
"As you’re aware the FAI recently completed an in-depth review of the entire World Cup campaign which was led by the FAI’s director of football Marc Canham, who is sitting with me today. This was presented at the August meeting of the FAI board, and at this meeting and following careful consideration of the report’s findings the board took the decision not to renew the contract of the women’s national team manager Vera Pauw."
Statement from Vera Pauw - very critical of FAI. pic.twitter.com/Efxs4oOfAA
— Richard Chambers (@newschambers) August 31, 2023
The Impact Of The Athletic Article
As many fans know, the Irish WNT’s last press conference before flying out to Oz was clouded with the focus of an Athletic article, detailing the NWSL allegations that were put to the Netherlands woman earlier in the year.
Hill recalls that attention as “not ideal” with relation to the team’s preparations at the time, and that, as such, was a contributing factor to the non renewal of her contract.
“We believe that it was not appropriate to offer a new contract at this point, to double down on concentrating on the tournament immediately ahead of us all and to assess everything post the tournament and the campaign in its entirety.
“I don’t think it was the content of the article itself, I think it was the effect of the article itself” he said.
“You guys were in the press conference with Vera and Katie, and Katie made it clear that she and other players felt it was a distraction in relation to the preparation for the tournament. I think Vera knew deep down it was a distraction as well to the preparation for the tournament, but Vera felt she had to address those issues.
“I understand why she wanted to address those personal issues in the way she did, but we felt it became a distraction. We were days away from getting on two planes to take us to Australia. We wanted the focus, and felt it was important at that point, that focus came back to the football and the tournament ahead.”
Once again however, The FAI and Vera Pauw seem to have different takes on what occurred there.
Pauw pins the release of that article as a major turning point, one where sentiment began to shift within the organisation.
“Following the article which appeared in The Athletic at the start of July, which included allegations I absolutely refute, I believe the FAI made some major mistakes by directly overruling the tasks of the coach” she said.
“"I said, 'Can we conclude that this article has brought attention into that squad that we did not overcome? At first management said, 'yes', and then they thought 'no, no no, no'. I said, 'because of false accusations'.
"And then it was said, 'false? Do we actually have a garda vetting of you Vera?' I fell off my chair, because I don't know why he said it. If you get a report about one of your employees in December 2022 the first thing you do is check if you have a garda vetting. That is your job, isn’t it?"
She also says she was “humiliated” to even be questioned about that, although the FAI did not confirm that it was put to her at all.
“I'm not quite sure where that has come from. All of the staff that work at the FAI are Garda vetted, all of our coaches who work with teams are Garda vetted. I was completely aware that Vera was Garda vetted, I'm not quite sure where that confusion came from” Hill said.
Jonathan Hill is asked about what it was about The Athletic article that changed things for the FAI and Vera Pauw with relation to contract negotiations.
“It wasn’t so much the content of the article but rather the effect” Hill says.
“It became a distraction.” @HerSportDotIE
— Alanna Cunnane (@acunnane10) September 14, 2023
The Alleged ‘Interference’ And Training Method Differences
Before yesterday’s press conference, this was perhaps one of the biggest issues the FAI would have felt they needed to address as a result of Vera Pauw’s comments.
She had intimated that her position became undermined at that point by executives in the FAI, which, would of course, make the opportunity to become the next Irish manager a less attractive offer were it to be verified.
“My position became very challenging when executives in the FAI, not technical football coaches, effectively took my seat and spoke to staff members and players regarding their roles in the team before and after the World Cup” she said.
“My advice - coming from my knowledge and experience - was often disregarded and not respected. In my opinion, no head coach in the world would accept interference of the executives in technical football affairs.
“Unfortunately, trust broke down between me and certain people in the FAI… Indeed, some discussions [in relation to the review] were held with players and staff before and during the World Cup which undermined my position and had an impact on our teambuilding process” she said.
Hill denies that assertion.
“It’s important to point out that there was absolutely no interference in the technical affairs of the team as has been suggested, from either myself, Marc or any FAI executives, whether that be team selection or anything of the sort” he said.
“In terms of team affairs more generally, I as CEO , as well as the wider senior leadership team have worked hard to develop strong professional relationships with the players as we believe it’s crucial that players feel connected to the association…The players themselves view this kind of open and transparent interaction and communication as a real positive and have stated this on a number of occasions. In the past, the FAI has been accused of not listening to players and I for one do not believe that would reflect a modern working environment.”
“Engagement with players and staff was always conducted in an appropriate manner and never in any way deliberately or inadvertently to undermine team affairs” he added.
He also detailed how while he had a “strong personal relationship with Vera”, that she is a “a very direct and Dutch style of person” and it appears that approach differed with the FAI’s long term vision for their head coach.
“To be fair to Vera she’s always been absolutely clear in the methods she chooses to do around sports science, conditioning, training and coaching. I fully understand, having been in elite sport and elite football for a long time over 20 years what those methods are, why they’re used and what they try to achieve” Canham explained.
“Broadly, the methods that Vera were using were talking about looking after the players, making sure they prevented injury, that they’d be fit and ready for games and sharp and explosive and ready to go" he said.
He then supplementing that “it was clear that methods that she has learned a lot about and become an expert in weren’t aligned with how I believe we need to take forward with all of our international teams.”
FAI Chief Executive Jonathan Hill and Director of Football Marc Canham are briefing the media now, Vera Pauw’s non contract renewal as well as Eileen Gleeson’s appointment as interim boss are up on the agenda ⚽️
Statement and questions then to follow. @HerSportDotIE pic.twitter.com/u4cAWke5LD
— Alanna Cunnane (@acunnane10) September 14, 2023
The FAI And Vera Pauw, in summary
Reasoning as to why the FAI waited until now to provide clarification around their decision not to continue with Pauw, Hill says that that decision came down “to respect [her] and those who participated in the review.”
He went on to thank her for her service and applauded her achievement in getting the team to their first ever World Cup, but he also circled back to a few key points once again.
“In summary we wish Vera Pauw well and thank her for all she has done, and we recognise and acknowledge her considerable achievements with this team. There was absolutely no interference in the technical affairs of this team, we did not present a formal contract offer pre the World Cup, we did conduct a full and thorough review of the campaign, the outcome of which was not predetermined” he said.
Pauw on the other hand isn’t going to let the fallout over her contract taint her achievements, and is going to “make a huge photo album with all those memories, because that is what I want to take with me, not that last month in the way it happened.”
“As an elite coach, losing never sits well with me, but the immense support and congratulations that I have received on our campaign coming from all over the world will have a long-lasting influence on me” she said.
"For now it is important that people take the lessons out of it and probably think for themselves, yeah maybe she is right, maybe we should have done this in a different way and yeah indeed, indeed we would not have done it if I would have been a male coach with the experience that I have, with the knowledge that I have."
'The FAI and Vera Pauw, the ultimate he said, she said' comes to a close (for now), with the search ongoing for the next Irish WNT manager.
Eileen Gleeson set to take charge of the Irish WNT’s opening Nations League game vs NI on September 23rd, per @JFallonExaminer.
Gleeson was previously Pauw’s No. 2, before Tom Elmes, and just this year had taken up the position as the FAI’s Head of Women’s and Girls Football👇 https://t.co/8gGRfRbSqX
— Alanna Cunnane (@acunnane10) August 29, 2023