Instead of opting not to return, it can be revealed he had his contract abruptly terminated by the club, which cited comments he made in a television interview in June it claimed damaged the reputation of the Roar.
‘Lots of people have opinions about me but one thing I’m not is selfish. I had a job to do and I wanted to finish that job.’
“They just suddenly turned gangster on us,” Fowler told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.
“Lots of people have opinions about me but one thing I’m not is selfish. I had a job to do and I wanted to finish that job. I wasn’t given the chance to go back and show people what we potentially could have done.
“I gave everything for the year for Brisbane Roar. My family were back and forth. I was over there on my own with just my No.2 and we gave everything that we had to help the club, to get them to where they are. Getting labelled selfish and a quitter and other things, it’s very poor play. I’m certainly not selfish and I’m not a quitter.”
Fowler has filed a petition with FIFA’s dispute resolution tribunal, which is expected to deliver an outcome within 30 days.
He is seeking damages after having his two-year contract cut short and, as he seeks to break into management in his home country, wants to set the record straight over the suggestion he walked out on the club and its players.
Fowler and Roar technical director Tony Grant, a former Everton midfielder, flew home to England in late March after the A-League was suspended. They were stood down like most other staff on April 1.
From then, he says, he could never get any certainty about the terms of his return from the Roar, who are owned by Indonesian conglomerate the Bakrie Group. In an interview with beIN Sports in June, Fowler outlined his frustration. “I’m meant to take a pay cut and I’m meant to also try and make my own way over there,” he told the Qatar-based sports network. “I think the way I see it is if I’m taking a pay cut and I’m paying for my own flights over there, then it’s effectively costing me money to go and manage a team. That shouldn’t be the case.”
As part of Fowler’s contract, the club said it would pay for return economy-class airfares between Australia and England for the coach and his family in the second year of the deal.
Anxious about his family as coronavirus took hold in England in March, he flew back with Grant at his own cost and said he had the approval of Roar chief executive David Pourre.
He would have had to enter quarantine upon his return to Brisbane but that never transpired.
“The club never stood us back up … and never gave us any clarity in terms of what was happening this year, never gave us any clarity over what was happening the year after,” Fowler said after lodging documents with Fifa.
“Then [they] wanted me to pay my own flight going back. I said ‘if you want me to come back, you’ve got to at least pay for my flight’. Regardless of how much money [they] think I’ve got, if I’m stood down and I’m not getting paid … it [would be] costing me money.
“I just felt the club were looking for a way out, if I’m being totally honest.”
Roar deputy chairman Chris Fong declined to comment when contacted on Friday.
Fowler is being represented at FIFA by Sydney sports lawyer Darren Kane, who writes fortnightly columns for the Herald. He has applied for vacant manager’s jobs at English Championship clubs Birmingham City and Bristol City.
Chris Barrett is Chief Sports Reporter of The Sydney Morning Herald.