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

As part of a full-blown rebellion revealed by the Herald today, at least 10 Ferns 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.

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The squad includes a number of young female athletes, including some teenagers.
These letters have been collated by the New Zealand Professional Footballers Association, and sent on to NZF.

Football Ferns head coach Andreas Heraf. Photo / Photosport
Football Ferns head coach Andreas Heraf. Photo / Photosport

"A number of Ferns players have come to us with some pretty heavy statements," NZPFA chief executive Harry Ngata told the Herald.

NZF issued a public response yesterday, confirming the receipt of the letters and that there will be a press conference in Auckland 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, but it is expected to be extensive.

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.

Football Ferns head coach Andreas Heraf. Photo / Photosport
Football Ferns head coach Andreas Heraf. Photo / Photosport

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, along with some other squad members, have told NZF they will not be available to represent the Ferns under Heraf.

This seems like 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.

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Severe pressure will now also fall on the shoulders of NZF chief executive 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, 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 immediate action taken by NZF, and the report was also not formally presented to the full 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 said 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.

Both Martin and Heraf were unavailable for comment yesterday, though Martin is expected to front tomorrow's press conference.

However, Ngata confirmed they were expecting an investigation by NZF on what was an "extremely serious matter".

"We have forwarded (the players) concerns to NZF and I expect NZF will take all appropriate action about what we view as extremely serious allegations."

Ngata also confirmed that the Player's union will insist that NZF conduct a completely independent investigation, rather than some kind of internal review.