England women football boss cleared of bullying allegations from Eni Aluko

Mark Sampson
Mark Sampson
Football manager Mark Sampson has been cleared regarding bullying and prejudicial comments in allegations made by footballer Eni Aluko.

Sampson is alleged to have made a comment with “racial and prejudicial” connotations towards a female football player.

Eni Aluko made allegations last year directed at Sampson, who led England to the World Cup semi-finals in 2015.

Her evidence during the investigation is understood to have included the claim, as reported by the Guardian:

“During a meeting with the midfielders’ unit of players, of which I was not present, MS (Sampson) 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?”‘

“I was deeply concerned about this comment and felt it was highly inappropriate for the national team coach to make such a sweeping negative generalisation about a new player in the team.”

Aluko described her team-mate as “distressed”, which was backed up by another player. The 30-year-old footballer also made eight other allegations towards Sampson, including bullying, but the barrister found Sampson not guilty.

Describing the alleged incident, Aluko’s complaint continued:

“As a black female in the team, understanding the unfavourable, racial and social connotations underlying MS’s comment further heightened my feelings of fear and isolation, especially in light of the previous instances where I have been negatively singled out, too.”

The FA released a statement after the allegations were dismissed, claiming they found “no wrong-doing”.

“Following an internal review into allegations raised by Eniola Aluko last year, the FA commissioned an independent investigation conducted by a barrister, Katharine Newton, from Old Square Chambers.”

“The detailed independent investigation report did not uphold any of Eniola Aluko’s complaints and found no wrong-doing on behalf of the FA or others.”

However, despite an outcome favoring Sampson and the FA, Aluko was paid a reported £80,000, in an agreement to avoid disruption to England’s Euro 2017 preparations.

Aluko was also offered a £20,000 central contract, but made it clear that she would not play for England again under Sampson’s charge. The footballer has not played for England since April of last year.

Eni made the complaint in the form of an eight-page email in May 2016 and barrister Katharine Newton took evidence from “10 individuals” before the report was sent to the Football Association.

Aluko, who is also a lawyer, released a statement confirming that she “raised a grievance against the FA as a result of treatment that I and others previously suffered”.

Since the FA decided to publish the findings, Sampson has admitted areas his ‘general communication style could improve’. In a statement, he said:

“The barrister’s final report said there was no case to answer and noted that my approach to all players is the same regardless of their background.”, he continued.

“I also appreciated that the report highlighted areas where I could improve my general communication style, and that is something I have taken on board and looked to improve.”

Piara Powar of Football Against Racism, told BBC Sport that he was ‘troubled’ by how Aluko’s complaint was handled:

“The FA has done the right thing in commissioning an independent investigation. However, the more revelations that emerge publicly the bigger the questions become,” he added.

“As I see it Eniola Aluko is a leader and an individual of principle.”

“She did the correct thing in raising her concerns.”

“One of the questions I have is why a player raising legitimate issues has found her England career effectively ended and her voice gagged.”

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