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Old 21st September 2017, 15:15   #1
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Default FA shown text messages as new evidence in Mark Sampson inquiry

FA shown text messages as new evidence in Mark Sampson inquiry
• FA re-engages Katharine Newton for third investigation into coach
• Texts discussing allegations of racial remarks shown to governing body
Exclusive by Daniel Taylor
The Guardian
Friday 15 September 2017 22.47 BST

The Football Association has been shown potentially crucial text messages that will form part of the evidence against Mark Sampson in the new inquiry that is re-investigating the England women’s team manager over allegations he made racial remarks to two of his players.

The FA is gathering new evidence after accepting that its first two inquiries were insufficient on the basis that neither of them had felt it necessary to interview Drew Spence about what Sampson allegedly said to her at the China Cup in October 2015.

Spence, a mixed-race player who was on her first England call-up at the time, has subsequently delivered a statement to the FA to offer her version of events and the governing body is now aware there are contemporaneous text messages from that tournament where players discuss what they heard.

Those messages could be crucial if they show any players voicing concerns about alleged comments long before the matter came to light publicly. Spence’s grievance is that Sampson allegedly asked her how many times she had been arrested. Eni Aluko’s allegation is that Sampson told her to be careful her Nigerian relatives did not bring Ebola to Wembley. Sampson strenuously denies making either comment and has described the investigations that cleared him of any wrongdoing as an “incredibly thorough process”.

In a statement released to the Guardian, the FA said it “can confirm it has received new information which will be passed on … for further investigation.”

Amid another day of fast-moving developments the FA has instructed Katharine Newton, the barrister who looked into Aluko’s complaints about bullying and victimisation, to begin a new process that specifically looks at the fresh evidence.

Newton is now setting up a meeting with Spence and may have to explain why the previous investigation, lasting three months, did not deem it necessary to speak to the Chelsea midfielder or indeed any of the other players who were present when the alleged comment was made. The barrister will come under pressure to speak to those players as part of the new investigation.

However, the FA’s decision to retain Newton has led to more criticism bearing in mind her previous work – described as a “farce” by Aluko – is one of the principal reasons why the culture, media and sport select committee has summoned the FA to a hearing on 17 October to face questions about the process.

Herman Ouseley, the chairman of Kick It Out, said: “If it’s true that the FA is about to reopen the investigation and get the person who made the flawed report back in that would seem to be an act of desperation that would take us further into the route of confusion and injustice. It will get us no further to where we need to be.”

The FA’s original explanation for not interviewing Spence was that the organisation did not know her identity, with Aluko being blamed for apparently “refusing” to help. That, however, has merely left the FA facing more questions given that Aluko’s initial evidence had stated it was a mixed-raced midfielder who was raised in south London, played for Chelsea and on her first England camp. Spence was the only mixed-raced England midfielder at the China Cup, even discounting the other clues.

The FA has also been forced to admit that it delivered its initial findings to Aluko before it had spoken to at least one of the key witnesses. Newton’s report did say the barrister had seen a video, filmed by FATV, of the China Cup meeting and that she was certain Sampson had not said the alleged comment to Spence. Aluko’s camp have requested the video to check if it is the correct meeting, or if it has been edited, but the FA has declined to pass it over.

Aluko’s 11-year, 102-cap England career was effectively over within two weeks of raising the issue in the FA’s culture review. Her view is that was “retaliation” but Sampson and the FA has always maintained the decision to remove her from the squad was completely unrelated. Sampson, preparing for a game against Russia next Tuesday, says his “conscience is clear”.
Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. Martin Luther King
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