FA accused of ‘inexcusable’ lack of leadership over Sampson

Date published: Thursday 21st September 2017 10:00

The Football Association has been accused of an “inexcusable” lack of leadership following the sacking of England Women’s coach Mark Sampson.

MP Damian Collins said senior figures at the FA, including chief executive Martin Glenn, had “difficult questions” to answer over why they took so long to look into the “incredibly serious matters” in Sampson’s past.

And he warned that heads would have to roll at the governing body if it could be proved executives had failed to heed warnings about Sampson’s conduct.

The 34-year-old was sacked on Wednesday night for ”inappropriate and unacceptable behaviour” during his time at a previous club.

He has in recent weeks been the subject of accusations of racism, harassment and bullying made by former England player Eni Aluko.

Yet less than 24 hours after Sampson oversaw England’s 6-0 win against Russia in a World Cup qualifier he was called to the FA’s Wembley headquarters to be informed his contract would be terminated with immediate effect following an historic safeguarding investigation into his conduct while he was manager of Bristol Academy.

The 2014 report, which was undertaken just months after Sampson was given the England job, concluded that he posed no risk working in the game. But Glenn – who last week was urged to re-examine the case by “external sources” – believed Sampson had “overstepped the professional boundaries between player and coach”, making his position “untenable”.

Collins, the chair of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, said on Sky News: “They (the FA) have based their decision (to sack Sampson) on this historical investigation from a few years ago.

“He should never have been appointed in the first place and action should have been taken a long time ago.

“And what’s inexcusable then is the way they didn’t refer back to this old information when Eni Aluko’s allegations about a culture of bullying within the England camp were made known.”

Glenn, speaking from Wembley, was appointed as the FA’s new chief executive in March 2015 – the same month in which the safeguarding report into Sampson was completed – and admitted his regret that he had not fired Sampson when he was made aware of the investigation in October of that year.

Collins said: “I think he (Glenn) has got difficult questions to answer. I think (the FA) have to explain how it was that Mark Sampson was appointed in the first place and why it was the current leadership team didn’t ask questions about Mark Sampson’s past, particularly when they became aware of new allegations that had been brought forward by members of the England squad.

“These are incredibly serious matters and I think again even last week it wasn’t the FA leadership asking to see this information, it was people from within the organisation who were aware of what was in this full report about Mark Sampson going to the leadership saying, ‘You need to have a look at this again’.

“I think there has been an absence of leadership. There was a definite decision made yesterday, but what we all want to know is why did it take that long?”

Aluko will give evidence to the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee next month and Collins hopes Glenn and other FA chiefs will also attend the hearing to face questions.

He said on the Today programme on Radio 4: “Be it Martin Glenn or whoever it is at the FA, if it’s clear that they ignored advice and warnings that were clear, then I think their position does become untenable.”

Sampson led England to successive semi-finals at the 2015 World Cup and the European Championship earlier this year, but the final months of his four-year reign have been plagued by controversy following a series of claims from Chelsea forward Aluko.

Sampson was cleared of any wrongdoing by an FA review, and a subsequent independent investigation.

Sir Trevor Brooking was the director of football development at the FA at the time of Sampson’s appointment.

He was present when Sampson was interviewed for the job but has said he was unaware of any of the allegations from Sampson’s time at Bristol.

He told The Times: “I was there and he interviewed fine but it would have been the HR people that looked into all the background stuff. Certainly nothing surfaced at that stage that I was aware of.”

Collins said the FA’s handling of the matter raised questions over its capability of running major investigations.

He added on Sky News: “Do we need almost a new body that sits outside of the FA that can look at serious issues like this that require proper and full investigation? Clearly the FA have fallen a long way short of what we would expect from them, and this is not the first time.”

Former England captain Karen Walker said she did not buy Glenn’s insistence that Sampson’s dismissal had nothing to do with Aluko’s allegations.

“It does seem like a bit of a witchhunt,” she told BBC 5 Live.

“To bring up something from however many years ago that’s already been looked at, however you look at it that doesn’t seem right.

“I think they’ve looked to try to get an easy way out to get rid of him and unfortunately they’ve made a bigger mess than it was originally.”

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