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Mark Sampson: FA sorry over race remarks to Eniola Aluko & Drew Spence

The FA has apologised to two players after new evidence showed sacked England’s women’s boss Mark Sampson made remarks which were “discriminatory on the grounds of race”.

An independent barrister ruled Sampson made unacceptable “ill-judged attempts at humour” on two occasions, to Eniola Aluko and Drew Spence.

Katharine Newton said despite this, she did not believe he is racist.

She also concluded Aluko was not subjected to “a course of bullying”.

Newton’s initial report, completed in March, had cleared Sampson, but the new evidence led to her investigation being resumed.

And a report of the reopened investigation, which says Sampson had difficulty judging boundaries around banter, was released as FA bosses and Aluko faced a parliamentary inquiry on Wednesday.

The Chelsea striker said she felt “relieved” about the new report, adding: “It suggests it was kind of all worth it going through the trouble and having it vindicated.”

FA chief executive Martin Glenn said Sampson, who was paid nine months’ salary on his departure, may proceed with a wrongful dismissal claim.

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He was sacked as England women’s boss last month after evidence of “inappropriate and unacceptable” behaviour with female players in a previous role.

Bordering on blackmail’ – Key points from hearing

  • Aluko, who has been capped 102 times, said she had not received payment of an £80,000 settlement fee in full from the FA.
  • “Martin Glenn said if I wrote a statement saying the FA were not institutionally racist he would release the second tranche of the money. I felt that was bordering on blackmail,” she said. Glenn denies asking her to do this.
  • FA chairman Greg Clarke complains of “fluff about institutional racism” claims, then withdraws remark after MPs criticise.
  • Aluko said she was “astonished” at an email from Clarke, in reply to a document about the case from the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA), which read: “I’ve no idea why you are sending me this. Perhaps you could enlighten me?”
  • The Nigeria-born striker accused England goalkeeping coach Lee Kendall of speaking to her in a fake Caribbean accent.
  • Aluko said there had been “an agenda to protect Mark Sampson and an agenda to protect the FA’s reputation”.
  • In a written submission to the inquiry, Aluko said she understood a black actress was hired to role-play “bad behaviour and a selfish attitude” with players – which she believed was meant to represent her.
  • Committee member Jo Stevens MP told Clarke: “I’ve never heard such shambolic evidence about the governance of an organisation”.
  • Clarke heavily criticised the PFA, accusing it of “walking away” from alcoholics and addicted gamblers while paying “millions on salaries”.

What does the FA say?

In a statement, FA chief executive Glenn said he and his organisation wanted to “sincerely apologise” to Aluko and Spence.

“Based on new evidence submitted to independent barrister Katharine Newton, she has now found that they were both subject to discriminatory remarks made by an FA employee. This is not acceptable,” he said.

He admitted there was “much to learn from this episode”, that the FA needed a better way to support whistleblowers, and it was “regrettable” Aluko did not take part in Newton’s initial investigation.

Aluko explained she had not participated because she felt the first internal inquiry had been flawed.

At the hearing, MP Julie Elliott asked Glenn if he accepted the FA had failed in its duty of care to players.

Glenn: “We have clearly made mistakes.”

Elliott: “You can’t say you have failed in your duty of care. I think that speaks of volumes.”

Sampson, 35, had earlier been cleared of wrongdoing by the internal inquiry, and Newton’s initial report, following discrimination allegations made by England players, including Aluko.

He said his conscience was clear, and denied being a racist.

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FA chairman Clarke accepted criticism around the recruitment of Sampson in 2013, saying: “What should have happened was a process of due diligence – which does happen now – but did not happen then.”

He said there had been “systemic, historic failings” at the FA and added: “When I took the job, there was one other decent applicant. It’s career death. I’m willing to risk my reputation to make it better. If it doesn’t get better it’s my fault.”

Sampson has ‘difficulty judging banter boundaries’

Newton said Sampson’s comments were discriminatory on grounds of race within the meaning of the Equality Act 2010, but that was not the same as concluding Sampson is racist.

The barrister also says:

  • Sampson appears to have difficulty judging the appropriate boundaries when engaging in ‘banter’ with the players.
  • Had Sampson remained as manager, she would have recommended he attended equal opportunities and diversity training as soon as possible.
  • All employees of the FA, regardless of their position and no matter how senior, should be given diversity training
  • Any training should be appropriately tailored (although by no means limited) to the sorts of circumstances likely to arise in a footballing environment with a particular focus on “banter” and “jokes”.


BBC sports editor Dan Roan

Well if the FA thought that that humiliating apology to Eni Aluko put them on the front foot then they were sadly mistaken after some devastating testimony from the former England striker.

What began as a dispute between a player and her national coach has become a scandal that threatens to engulf the entire FA and put some of the most powerful figures in the game under serious pressure.

I think the FA must consider that whereas in the past some of the crises have revolved around a failing England team or the sacking of national managers or the relationship with the professional game, this was all about their commitment to safeguarding, to whistleblowing and once again to their fitness to govern. And it’s highly unlikely that this sorry saga will end after today’s hearing.

How did we get here?

  • Aluko made the claims in a 2016 FA inquiry into its management culture. She has not played since.
  • She accused Sampson of belittling her and making racist remarks, including a comment about her Nigerian family and the Ebola virus.
  • Aluko reached an £80,000 settlement with the FA, which it said was to avoid disrupting England’s Euro 2017 preparations.
  • An internal review cleared Sampson, and Newton reached the same conclusion, but it emerged key witnesses had not been interviewed.
  • Aluko claimed Sampson asked mixed-race England midfielder and Chelsea team-mate Spence whether she had been arrested during a tournament in 2015, a claim he also denied.
  • Spence subsequently submitted evidence to support the allegation, forcing the FA to reopen the investigation.


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