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.
‘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.
- “[FA chief executive] 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.
- The Chelsea striker said she had felt “isolated” during the case, and reacting to the new report, added: “I’m a human being and I feel relieved. It suggests it was kind of all worth it going through the trouble and having it vindicated.”
- Aluko said she was “astonished” at an email from FA chairman Greg Clarke, in reply to a document about the case from the Professional Footballers’ Association, 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”.
What does the FA say?
In a statement, FA chief executive Glenn said: “On behalf of The Football Association I would like to sincerely apologise to Eniola Aluko and Drew 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 the organisation’s ambition had “always been to find the truth and take swift and appropriate action if needed.”
Glenn added: “It was our decision to have the original, second, and final investigation to ensure that due diligence was taken.
“It is regrettable that Eniola did not participate in the first external investigation as this would have enabled Katharine Newton to conduct and complete her investigation sooner.”
Sampson was sacked as England women’s boss last month after evidence of “inappropriate and unacceptable” behaviour with female players in a previous role.
He had earlier been cleared of wrongdoing by an internal inquiry, and Newton’s initial report, following discrimination allegations made by England players, including Chelsea striker Aluko.
Sampson, 35, has said his conscience was clear, and denied being a racist.
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”.
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 Drew 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.
‘A mess’ – What happened to Sampson?
The Welshman became England head coach in December 2013 after leaving top-flight side Bristol Academy, now renamed Bristol City Women.
Sampson was dismissed last month for unspecified “inappropriate and unacceptable behaviour” with female players in his job at Bristol Academy.
It emerged that, following a complaint in 2015, a safeguarding assessment found the following year that he did not pose a risk, but the FA’s leadership said that having been made fully aware of the details of the claims made against Sampson, he could no longer continue in his role.
The FA insisted its decision was not related to Aluko’s claims, but sports minister Tracey Crouch described the situation as “a mess”.
FA chief executive Glenn, chairman Greg Clarke, and FA technical director Dan Ashworth – who helped appoint Sampson – were appearing in front of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee on Wednesday to discuss aspects of the Aluko and Sampson cases.
December 2013: Sampson becomes England manager having left Bristol Academy
Early 2014: Complaint against Sampson made relating to his time at Bristol
March 2015: FA safeguarding review panel concludes investigation and in October 2015 he is cleared to continue working in football
May 2016: England forward Eniola Aluko is asked to participate in a cultural review of all England teams by the FA’s technical director Dan Ashworth
December 2016: An independent investigation, led by barrister Katharine Newton, hears Aluko’s claims that during a meeting in 2015, Sampson made a “highly inappropriate remark”
March 2017: The independent review clears Sampson and his staff of wrongdoing but it is understood Aluko was paid £80,000 in a confidentiality agreement
13 September 2017: FA says it received the full safeguarding review panel report on the allegations against Sampson
14 September 2017: The FA says it could re-open its investigation into racism claims against Sampson after further evidence is submitted
20 September 2017: Sampson sacked by FA
2 October 2017: FA chairman Greg Clarke says Sampson should have been sacked “years ago”
18 October 2017: FA apologises to Aluko and Spence for Sampson’s remarks