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Old 21st September 2017, 14:50   #1
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Default Sampson's sacking is the messiest yet from an organisation that specialises in scanda

Mark Sampson's sacking is the messiest yet from an organisation that specialises in scandals

Sam Wallace Chief Football Writer
20 September 2017 • 10:29pm

Sacked on the basis of a report that no one outside the Football Association will ever be able to read, Mark Sampson’s dismissal might just be the messiest yet in the history of an organisation that wrote the book on that subject.

In the past, the FA has thrown overboard one England manager expressing belief in punishment due from a previous life, and another without the judgment to know he should not discuss the transfer system at the restaurant table. It has discarded a chief executive who shared an FA-employed mistress with the England manager, although not that England manager himself, and they have sacked an England captain alleged to have slept with a team-mate’s wife.

The FA had not yet sacked a manager on the basis of an FA report which had previously cleared the man in question of any wrongdoing but at an organisation as paranoid about its own public image as the FA, that was just a matter of time. Sampson’s reputation lies in shreds, more so than any England manager before him, which is saying something, although no one is yet sure what it is he has done.

A fuller picture may yet emerge and it might reveal a man wholly unsuitable to do the job he once did. Until that time, plenty are enthusiastically guessing the reality from the fragments. There are the public allegations against Sampson by his former player Eniola Aluko, and those made in private by Drew Spence, and now the findings of a report which has been revisited in the white heat of a growing scandal.

A cynical view would be that Sampson has become one liability too far for the FA, and this lost safeguarding report from 2015 was all it required to put an end to a saga that threatened to nibble away at the organisation’s credibility over weeks and months, the festering wound that required one swift amputation.

It is a wholly unsatisfying conclusion to a troubling saga, one that goes right to the heart of the FA – a story of race and power, of the relationship between a male coach and his female players, and also of the relationship between a white man and one black and two mixed-race women.

Football’s universality in this country means that it often finds itself at the sharp end of our social politics but rarely has so much been left unexplained.

How much more reassuring it would be to know at least some of that detail upon which the FA made its final decision over the course of last week, but in the absence of that disclosure an organisation famous for its world-class panicking in the face of a crisis is asking us to trust it.

That was essentially the basis of the appeal made by Martin Glenn, the FA chief executive, and Greg Clarke, the chairman, when they briefed the media at Wembley on Wednesday afternoon. The gist of what they said is that having read the safeguarding investigation into Sampson completed in 2015, they have decided it is sufficiently serious to cause themselves a whole lot of pain by sacking him.

The unsaid part of this process is that it would have been easier to have left that report forgotten in a desktop file in the human resources department than suffer the brutal aftermath of this latest episode. Implied in that judgment is that by taking the more difficult path, Glenn and Clarke were confronted with evidence of misconduct in the report which they could simply not ignore.

As ever, the FA maintains that the FA of March 2015 was not the FA that exists now – in fact Glenn was appointed the same month that the safeguarding report into Sampson cleared the then England Women coach to work in football. Epochs come and go at the FA quicker than they do in politics, a steady supply of new faces who can blame the old mistakes on the last regime and in Glenn’s case there was just enough clear space between him and the original Sampson investigation to make this decision.

Glenn and Clarke, appointed chairman in July 2016, have made their name at the FA as men who do not delay the hard decisions for another day and in the case of Sam Allardyce and now Sampson have done what they think is in the interests of the FA as a whole. The pair were as open as they believed they could be on Wednesday when words were chosen carefully amid a series of questions to which full answers could not be given.

Glenn accepted that his “mistake” was not to ask for full-sight of the safeguarding report into Sampson in October 2015 when he learned of its existence. That was three months after the coach had led England to third place at the World Cup finals, which gave the women’s game a profile it had never previously enjoyed in this country.

It is a hard lesson to learn and the current chief executive will hope that at the very least it stands him in good stead for the future. It would be hard to believe that a safeguarding investigation into a senior FA employee would again go unread by an FA chief executive, but then this is an organisation so regularly purged by scandal or politics that one should not assume the misjudgments of the past will not resurface in new guise for a new generation.


The main players in the Mark Sampson scandal
by Luke Edwards

Mark Sampson

The 34-year-old Welshman has led England to two successive semi-finals in major tournaments after success with Bristol Academy in the WSL. He started his coaching career under Roberto Martinez at Swansea. He has always denied the bullying and racism allegations made against him as England women's manager.

Eni Aluko

The Chelsea striker has been an iconic figure during women’s football transition from part-time to professional in England and played more than 100 games for England. The 30-year-old was the first player to make allegations about Sampson, including claims that she was a victim of bullying and racism. A trained lawyer, she has not played for England since May 2016.

Drew Spence

The Chelsea player was at the centre of Aluko’s initial complaint about racist comments by Sampson after he allegedly asked her how many times she had been arrested during the build up to a game at the China Cup in 2015. Initially reluctant to come forward, she is understood to have contacted the FA last week to give evidence.

Jodie Taylor

Won the golden boot at the European Championships in the summer after replacing Aluko in the England team under Sampson. Her career has blossomed since he took charge of the national team and the striker has repeatedly defended him in public since the allegations were made.

Dan Ashworth

The FA’s technical director was involved in the hiring of Sampson as a replacement for Hope Powell in 2014 and was one of his main supporters at the FA. He has overall responsibility for all of England’s international teams based at St George’s Park.

Katherine Newton

A barrister at Old Square Chambers, specialising in employment and discrimination law. She was put in charge of the independent inquiry into Aluko’s allegations of bullying and racism in 2016 which subsequently cleared Sampson of any wrongdoing. Was presented with new evidence following contact with Spence last week.
Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. Martin Luther King
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