Soccer An overview of the Mark Sampson and Eni Aluko controversy – and his eventual sacking as the England Women’s manager By plugeldadmin Posted on September 24, 2017 33 min read 29 0 6 Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Google+ Share on Reddit Share on Pinterest Share on Linkedin Share on Tumblr Plunge into Soccer and get all the most recent football news, betting tips, and advancements for all the real associations around the globe. Read inside and out articles on all significant Premier League occasions and from other nations. Mark Sampson was this week sacked as England Women’s manager, following an on-going controversy surrounding allegations made by Chelsea Ladies forward Eni Aluko of bullying, and racially-insensitive remarks towards herself and a fellow England player. Coverage has been extensive in certain sections of the media, but this is a complicated scandal, and there has been a lot of confusion over certain details and the timeline of events. Of course, a lot of the finer details remain unknown – though they will no doubt emerge in the coming days and weeks. I’ve tried to put together a summary of the events leading up to Sampson’s sacking – and highlighted issues the fiasco raises about the FA’s management of the situation, and the general culture of the game. I have put together a bullet point ‘summary of the summary’, as I appreciate this is pretty long. This is really 2 separate controversies which have collided: the allegations made by Aluko about Mark Sampson’s behaviour during his time as England manager, and then the recently-revealed safeguarding investigation into Sampson’s conduct whilst he was manager of Bristol Academy. The latter have only just come to light, but chronogically precedes the incidents alleged by Aluko. *** **The scandal breaks:** In August, it was reported by Daniel Taylor of the Guardian newspaper that Eni Aluko – the Chelsea and England striker – had been paid [£80,000 by the FA](https://www.theguardian.com/football/2017/aug/16/eni-aluko-fa-under-pressure-explain-money) in order to “avoid disruption” ahead of that summer’s European Championships, in the Netherlands. Despite not having featured for England for over a year, her central contract (£20,000/year) was also been renewed by the FA. These payments were seen as “hush money” by many observers. The FA denied this, stating Aluko was free to speak about the matter publicly. The payment related to allegations made by Aluko of Sampson making a remark to a (then) unnamed mixed-race England player, which Aluko described as having “derogatory, racial and prejudicial connotations”. The accusation is that whilst in a private meeting with the player in question, and 3 other England players, Sampson (in Aluko’s words): > used an analogy about pressing hard in midfield and getting a caution like a police caution, MS then addressed the player individually and said in relation to being cautioned by police: “Haven’t you been arrested before? Four times isn’t it?” Drew Spence has since come forward as the player in question. The Chelsea Ladies player has received one England call-up, in October 2015 at the China Cup – where the incident is alleged to have taken place. Spence has never been arrested; the issue raised centres on this remark being individualised to her as the only mixed-race player present. She is said to have been “distressed” by the comment, and shared it with Aluko. The FA had conducted an internal investigation, and a separate independent inquiry which cleared Sampson of any wrong-doing. Aluko has 102 caps for England, but has not played for her country since April 2016, and was not included in the Euros squad despite being the top English goal-scorer in the Women’s Super League. After she was left out of the squad, she accused Sampson on BBC radio of “favouritism”. These comments were made well before any of these accusations came to light. *** **Aluko’s complaints:** More details continued to emerge surrounding exactly how Eni Aluko came to make her complaint. In [an interview](https://www.theguardian.com/football/2017/aug/21/eni-aluko-england-manager-mark-sampson-ebola), again with Daniel Taylor, Aluko revealed that she was invited to a ‘culture review’ by the FA, and asked to speak about her experiences in English football – and assured it would be entirely confidential. Aluko at this point raised concerns about what she described as a “bullying” culture in Mark Sampson’s set-up. Aluko also claims that Sampson a week later visited her at Chelsea’s training ground to inform her she would no longer be part of his England team due to her [“un-Lioness” behaviour](https://www.theguardian.com/football/2017/aug/22/eni-aluko-racism-bullying-pfa-fa-mark-sampson-chelsea) – which led Aluko to suspect that the promised confidentiality had been breached, although the FA insisted the timing was coincidental. [Aluko additionally revealed she made further allegations to the FA](https://www.theguardian.com/football/2017/aug/21/eni-aluko-england-manager-mark-sampson-ebola) against Sampson and members of his coaching team. The most egregrious of these is her claim that in November 2014, before an England home game against Germany, Sampson asked Aluko whether she was bringing any family to the game. When she responded that some family from Nigeria were flying over, Sampson said “‘Nigeria? Make sure they don’t bring Ebola with them.” Aluko described this as “racist” in her complaint to the FA. The formal complaint made by Aluko came in November 2016 through the Professional Footballers’ Association, some time after the incident. This came following the verdict of the FA’s investigations that found there was no case against Sampson, and Aluko has further explained the delay in her reporting of the 2014 incident as being due to a build-up of concerns about Sampson’s conduct that culminated in her speaking out, and her feeling of embarrassment at the time. *** **The FA investigations:** The FA conducted an internal inquiry, and a separate independent investigation was commissioned, following Aluko’s reporting of the Drew Spence/China Cup incident which is alleged to have occured in October 2015, in the ‘culture review’. Both investigations cleared Sampson, but [Aluko (who is a qualified lawyer) raised concerns over how these were conducted, describing them as a “farce”](https://www.theguardian.com/football/2017/aug/16/eni-aluko-fa-under-pressure-explain-money). Notably, none of Spence, any of the other 3 players present, or Aluko, were interviewed – essentially, neither enquiry asked any of the key witnesses for their version of events. The FA claim this is as Spence was not named by Aluko, but as the only ‘mixed-race midfielder’ in that England squad (which is how Aluko described her in her report), she would not have been hard to identify – any many fans were able to do so (including myself) with 30 seconds on Google. Given this, issues can be raised about how robust these investigations were. The FA were in possession of video footage of the incident, but refused to hand over the footage – and it remains unclear whether the video contains the entire incident. Although she retained anonymity throughout the investigation and in the early stages of this scandal, Spence then decided to come forward as the player involved, and last week sent a [written statement to the FA supporting the accusation that Aluko made](https://www.theguardian.com/football/2017/sep/14/fa-mark-sampson-inquiry-drew-spence-eni-aluko) and reiterate the allegation that the comment had been made to her. In light of this, the FA were considering a new inquiry, and a parlimentary review committee was has also been convened to discuss the claims, and the culture surrounding the England Women’s national team. *** **Other concerns relating to Sampson and players of colour:** After news of Aluko’s accusations emerged, several other players spoke out about their perceived treatment by Sampson in his guise of England manager. Prominent amongst these are Lianne Sanderson. The forward is currently recovering from an ACL injury, and has been capped 50 times for England. She was [involved in giving evidence in the investigations about Sampson’s alleged bullying behaviour](http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/41019789), and because of this says she has accepted she will “probably not” be selected by England again. She has also been outspoken on Twitter about Sampson and the FA’s conduct, and her support of Aluko. Complaints appear to relate to general attitudes around the England set-up – one example Sanderson gave is that her 50th cap was not celebrated, as has been customary in the FA, on the same occasion when the 100th cap of a white England player was being marked. Anita Asante – a player with 70 caps to her name – also raised concerns about [being “ostracised” by Sampson](https://www.theguardian.com/football/2017/aug/23/england-women-fearful-speaking-out-anita-asante), and a culture surrounding the England team in which players were fearful of speaking out due to the damage that could be done to their career. *** **Sampson retains support of the FA and players:** Amongst the developing controversy, the FA came out in support of Sampson – pointing to the results of the 2 investigations into the allegations. England captain Steph Houghton also spoke out in support of Sampson. England this week kicked off their 2019 World Cup qualifying campaign at home to Russia. Following Nikita Parris’ (a mixed-race player…) opening goal, the entire England team [flocked to Sampson on the sideline](http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/41327210) to celebrate, in what was seen by many as a very public display of support and unity behind their manager. However, this did not go down well with all parties. Aluko took to Twitter to express her disappointment. She [pointed out](https://twitter.com/EniAlu/status/910217098919600129) that these players had ominated her to negotiate their central contracts with the FA, and in making a show of supporting Sampson so publicly, it is disrespectful of her contribution to a “benefit for all” of the England players and her career of an England player. It was also noted that in seeking to show unity, it really illlustrates disunity between Aluko and those taking against Mark Sampson, and the current England set-up. Issues can also be raised surrounding whether current players feel able to do anything but support their current manager – who has such a hold over their careers – given that players who have spoken out against him are no longer involved in the England set-up, and the implication by Aluko that an unhealthy “us against them” mentality had been deliberately encouraged. *** **Sampson is sacked – an investigation into his conduct as Bristol Academy manager is revealed:** It appeared at this point, that Sampson may have been able to weather the storm. However, at a hastily-convened press conference the day after England’s win over Russia, it was announced his position was being terminated with immediate effect. The reason given for the sacking was completely unrelated (according to the FA) to Aluko’s allegations – but [related to a safeguarding investigation](http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/41326806) into his conduct when manager of the women’s team Bristol Academy, in 2013. Sampson was investigated in 2015, and it was found that he “did not pose a safeguarding risk” following claims of “inappropriate” behaviour and relationships with players. The FA claimed that they were unaware of concerns about Sampson’s conduct during the recruitment process, but the organisation Women in Football threw a spanner in the works, by [claiming the FA had actually been made aware of allegations before Sampson’s appointment in 2013](http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/41345690), and that it was widely-rumoured amongst players that Sampson behavioured inappropriately in his role as coach at Bristol Academy. The story as the FA tell it is that they were aware only of the outcome of the 2015 investigation – essentially that Sampson was not a safeguarding risk, but not of the details. FA directors requested the full report last week, and upon receiving it and becoming informed of the details of his conduct, decided that despite the overall outcome, his behaviour was not befitting for an England manager, and so took the decision to relieve him of his duties. It has also transpired that the FA were aware of these damning details before the England-Russia game – and it has been assumed that they wanted the first qualifier to be taken care of before announcing his sacking, in order to avoid disruption. Why the FA did not originally enquire about the details of the report upon learning of it in 2015 – and have waited so long to do so – remains an important answered question. *** **Summary:** * It emerged the FA had paid Eni Aluko £80,000 ‘hush money’, relating to complaints she made against the England women’s manager Mark Sampson about alleged racist comments about a mixed-race player (Drew Spence), and sustained bullying behaviour * An FA investigation and independent enquiry found Sampson had no case to answer – but these investigations did not interview key witnesses * Eni Aluko made a separate complaint in which she alleged Sampson made a racist comment about her Nigerian relatives having Ebola – this complaint was not investigated by the FA * England players Drew Spence, Lianne Sanderson and Anita Assante also raised concerns about Sampson’s behaviour towards non-white players in the England set-up * The FA publicly backed Sampson, as well as the current England squad – by a ‘staged’ celebration during England’s 6-0 win over Russia earlier this week, which was criticised as Aluko as showing ‘disunity’ and ‘disrespect’ * The day after the England-Russia game, Sampson was sacked by the FA due to misconduct whilst manager of Bristol Academy Women, in 2013 – it being alleged he had “inappropriate relationships” with players * A safeguarding investgation had taken place and concluded in 2015 Sampson “did not pose a safeguarding risk” – the FA claimed they were not privy to full details of the report, and after having learnt the details of Sampson’s alleged misconduct, decided he was not fit to be England manager. * /**Key**: The FA official line is that Sampson was sacked for his behaviour whilst manager at Bristol Academy, and not anything to do with Eni Aluko’s allegations *** **Opinion?** So – my 2 cents. I’m no expert, but I’ve followed this pretty closely, and have had a keen interest in the women’s game in this country for many years. Regarding the accusations of racist comments – I am of the opinion from what is known about Aluko’s character that this is just not something she would make up. Given that she’s a qualified lawyer, she probably understands the consequences of making an entirely false accusation such as this. It’s not just one accusation – it’s several, and from several different players. No smoke without a fire – this appears to be less of an isolated incident and more a sustained pattern of behaviour from Sampson. The semantics of whether they’re truly racist or not can be debated – but they are definitely not appropriate, and they are definitely race-related. Sampson wouldn’t, and hasn’t, made those comments to white players. And I’ve always kind of thought he was a slimy sort – like a school PE teacher too friendly with the popular girls. The entire thing is completely unsavoury for so many reasons, and a massive shame for the women’s game in England, given the progress that has been made in recent years in terms of increasing success, popularity, and exposure. Women’s football wants headlines, but not for these reasons. Sampson has had great results on the pitch, but he doesn’t seem like a man who you want as England manager – he’s had criticism in the past for the way he talks about opposition players and managers too, he sort of rubs people up the wrong way. The FA’s handling of this throughout has been shocking, and there are lots of things that just don’t quite add up – there has been a lack of transparency, some very poorly-conducted investigations, and a great deal of buck-passing and back-covering. You can’t help but think as well that it would have been handled differently had Sampson not been so successful as England manager. The 2017 Euros was a big opportunity for the FA to build on the momentum the Lionesses had gained from the 2015 World Cup – and I suspect they didn’t want to pass on that. I think it also seems likely, given the calls for a new inquiry into Spence and Aluko’s allegations, that the FA know that new inquiry will not shine favourably on Sampson – and have taken the decision to sack him now before that all emerges. The timing of them looking into the old Bristol Academy report is too convenient – it definitely to me seems like they were searching for a reason to get rid. It’s disappointing as well that the whole thing appears to have led between divisions between the current England players, and such an experienced and valued former England player like Aluko – she’s a big representative of the women’s game in this country. Going forward, Sampson may be gone, but those divisions will remain uncomfortable. A lot of people have been hurt by this, and you can’t think it will be that easily healed. Finally, the reaction by some towards Aluko’s actions has also been disappointing. She’s been accused of “sour grapes”, and causing unnecessary divisions in the England team. There seems to be an attitude by some that she shouldn’t be raising these concerns due to the potential disruption they cause – and as such criticism has come her way. The culture that should be fostered in sport is one that encourages concerns to be raised about potential misconduct, and thoroughly investigated with full transparency – standards the FA certainly did not meet. People have said things along the lines of “it’s not racist, suck it up” – and if discrimination is truly to be tackled, that is the exact kind of attitude we need to be moving away from. The way they’ve handled it has seriously undermined the FA’s integrity in fielding these concerns, as their focus seems to be less on giving them due attention and diligence, and more on protecting their own reputation. I think Aluko should be lauded for being brave enough to come forward – she has had to face a lot of personal criticism as a result, and has potentially ostracised herself from former and current teammates due to standing up against what she sees as discrimination, and an unacceptable culture surrounding the England team and the FA. Every day soccer news from best leagues in the planet. Additionally highlighting match tips, betting, and bookmaker advancements. Transfer news and rundown of finished transfer.