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Old 21st September 2017, 15:12   #1
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Default Sampson scandal points to a baffling case of selective hearing that further tarnishe

Mark Sampson scandal points to a baffling case of selective hearing that further tarnishes the FA

That Sampson was investigated in 2014, yet allowed to continue as manager, is surprising. The lack of curiosity among senior FA officials as to the detail of allegations is remarkable

Glenn Moore
The Independent Sport
September 20 2017

The Football Association’s ability to run football is again under scrutiny after the most damaging episode in the women’s game since the governing body took control in 1993. A two-month-long saga which has thoroughly tested the old line about all publicity being good publicity took an explosive twist with the dismissal of head coach Mark Sampson.

On Tuesday night Katie Brazier, the FA’s head of women’s leagues and competitions, told the BBC the sport was “still finding it a real challenge to bring in commercial sponsorship”. That is mainly because the women’s game usually exists in a vacuum. This summer, however, the sport has been making plenty of headlines, but most of them have been unsavoury and sponsors are unlikely to be clamouring to invest.

The England team’s impressive run to the semi-finals of the European Championships drew positive attention, and should have been the perfect launch pad for the new wintertime Women’s Super League which kicks off on Friday. Instead, it has been followed by allegations of racism and bullying levelled at Sampson, which have proved hugely divisive within the sport, and now his firing for “inappropriate behaviour” during his time at Bristol.

That Sampson was investigated by the FA as long ago as 2014, yet allowed to continue as national coach, is surprising. While Greg Clarke, the FA chairman, and the chief executive, Martin Glenn, are at pains to emphasise Sampson had done nothing illegal, and an independent panel ruled he was not a “safeguarding threat”, the lack of curiosity among senior FA officials as to the detail of allegations is remarkable. Surely a male coach of a women’s team being required to undergo “training and mentoring” as to how he should behave around female players should have rung clanging alarm bells.

Rumours have been circulating within the women’s game about Sampson’s behaviour at Bristol Academy for some time. Rumours are often malicious and false, and people who select teams are vulnerable to them, yet when they involve the national coach it should not need a tip-off for the FA to take a closer look.

Purely from a football point of view Sampson’s exit is a set-back. A surprise choice when he replaced Hope Powell, being neither English, nor female, or possessing any experience of the international game, his reign had been very successful. He took England to successive semi-finals in the World Cup and European Championships, and to a highest-ever ranking of third in the world. However, there are a number of credible candidates to replace him and whoever does will inherit a talented, close-knit squad of players, albeit a squad which will have been left stunned by this development. Their support for Sampson was made clear by an emotional group hug with the coach after Nikita Parris scored the opening goal in the 6-0 rout of Russia at Prenton Park on Tuesday night, an impressive first step towards the 2019 World Cup.

That hug appeared a response to the pressure Sampson had been under after another unedifying affair: allegations of racist and bullying behaviour, initially made by Eniola Aluko, the 102-cap Chelsea striker. The FA noted again on Wednesday that as far as they are concerned that issue has been dealt with by two investigations, the second external and ongoing, which have so far cleared Sampson. Nevertheless, pressure has grown for a third inquiry with the FA summoned before a House of Commons select committee next month to explain their handling of the case. After today’s events that will now be an even more uncomfortable day for Clarke and Glenn.
Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. Martin Luther King
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