September 22nd 2017
The FA: Not Fit To Goven The Women's Game Either

So, Mark Sampson has gone.

By any sporting measure the England women’s football coach was successful. But it is appearing increasingly clear that he was not quite as good off the pitch.

Sacked this week, after a report alleged that his behaviour while at Bristol Academy (now Bristol City Ladies) prior to taking the England job “overstepped the professional boundaries between player and coach” was published. At first glance it seems the FA have been decisive and acted to protect the integrity of the England team. Only, this is the FA and nothing is ever quite that simple and that report has been around since 2015.

Sampson was appointed as England Coach in December 2013. Around the same time – as acknowledged by FA Chief Exec Martin Glenn – the FA first knew of the allegations. Sampson gave “verbal assurances” as to what had happened. No further due-diligence was done.

Glenn was appointed to that role in March 2015, and the report was released in November of that year. It warned of safeguarding concerns. Now, no one can reasonably hold Glenn to account for what happened before he took over, but we do have a right to insist he does his job – the job we pay him for, after all! – to the best of his ability since.

By his own admission Glenn had not read the report into his own Ladies Coach. He requested the full report only in the last month, when he did, he sacked Sampson. That might answer the question as to why a sackable offence in 2017 was not one in 2015, but there are many other points to answer.

Not least, why Glenn chose to read the report now. The answer to that is the claims of racism against Sampson. He is alleged to have said to said to star striker Eni Aluko of her Nigerian relatives: “Make sure they don’t come over with Ebola.” Another mixed race player, Drew Spence, said that Sampson asked her how many convictions she’d had when she received her call up.

The FA have conducted enquiries into this. They have exonerated Sampson twice. But the first enquiry was dismissed by the Professional Footballers Association as being a “sham, designed not to establish the truth but to protect Mark Sampson” and the second did not include an interview with Spence.

Glenn was at pains to say this week that the racism allegations and the safeguarding issues were not linked. That – as he admitted himself – is something that many onlookers will find, lets say, convenient.

Sports Minister Tracy Crouch has described this situation as a “mess”. Which is something that the seemingly hapless organisation can ill afford at a time where they have to report to the Parliamentary Select Committee next month to discuss the changes they were compelled to make earlier in the year.

The Telegraph, in their report on the matter, said that the Sampson affair: “is stark testament to the organisation’s rank incompetence.” Glenn for his part said it was “the most awkward and complicated issue I have ever dealt with.”

Maybe it was Martin, but then again, maybe you should have read the report and made it a little clearer for yourself?

Andy Thorley

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