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Old 30th October 2017, 12:06   #1
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Default Sports minister Tracey Crouch warns FA could lose funds and bidding power

Exclusive: Sports minister Tracey Crouch warns FA could lose funds and bidding power

Ben Rumsby
23 October 2017 • 10:30pm

Tracey Crouch on Monday warned Greg Clarke and Martin Glenn she was ready to strip the Football Association of all its public funding – and block it from bidding to host the game’s biggest events – if it failed to ensure the Mark Sampson scandal could never happen again.

Sports minister Crouch refused to join calls for FA chairman Clarke and chief executive Glenn to resign or be fired over their handling of Sampson’s sacking as England Women manager and his racist abuse of Eni Aluko, but declined to offer them her backing either.

Speaking at length for the first time about the wave of crises to engulf British sport since she became arguably the most powerful figure in the industry, Crouch also threatened the governing bodies of Olympic and Paralympic sports with a withdrawal of funding if they failed to address the athlete welfare scandal to have engulfed them.

She told the Daily Telegraph:
  • She was “absolutely” prepared to block the FA’s bid for the 2021 European Women’s Championship and future Euros, World Cups and Champions League finals if the FA did not “get themselves in order”.
  • She found evidence submitted to a parliamentary inquiry about the FA’s handling of racism allegations against Sampson “shocking”.
  • She had already made her feelings clear to the governing body, with her branding its processes for dealing with discrimination complaints as “not fit for purpose”.
  • She was ready to strip national governing bodies of funding if they failed to stop athletes being physically and emotionally abused, even if it meant the country winning fewer medals.
  • Her number-one priority was dealing with sport’s paedophile scandal and she was fighting for a change to the law.
It is now almost a week since Sampson was found guilty at the third time of asking of racially abusing Aluko and her team-mate, Drew Spence, a decision that has seen the FA subjected to an unprecedented level of condemnation. The report emphasised, however, that it did not conclude that Sampson was a racist.

Crouch, herself an FA-qualified coach, had been among those to hit out at the governing body’s handling of the scandal and she went further on Monday by warning a repeat would risk punishment under the Government’s Code for Sports Governance that is about to come into force.

Calling Clarke “wrong” to tell former NBA star John Amaechi that ministers were powerless to bring the FA to heel, she said: “If that had happened next year then there would be that opportunity for us to sit there and reflect on whether or not there was a funding consequence for that.”

Confirming that “absolutely” on the table would also be a withdrawal of Government guarantees necessary for England to host major events, she added: “The FA have got to get themselves in order.

“That does mean a change in culture within the Football Association. And I would expect them to reflect on that and to make it very clear that the Eni Aluko case-Sampson affair will not happen again.”

Crouch criticised Clarke, Glenn and FA technical director Dan Ashworth’s car-crash appearance in front of the Digital, Culture, Media & Sport select committee on Wednesday, which heard evidence from Aluko she branded “shocking”.

That included allegations Glenn had tried to get her to issue a statement saying the FA was not institutionally racist – something Aluko described as “bordering on blackmail” – and claims a black actress hired for a role-play exercise with the England team had been deliberately chosen to make the striker look bad.

Those accusations – compounded by revelations from an internal review into Aluko’s complaints which Crouch branded “not fit for purpose” – saw seven of the 11-strong select committee urge Clarke, Glenn and Ashworth, at the very least, to consider their positions.

Refusing either to back the current FA leadership or call for their sacking either, Crouch said: “While I completely understand what people are saying, I don’t think it is for a minister to turn around and say that somebody should go in a governing body.”

Football is not alone in having been engulfed by an athlete welfare scandal, with Olympic and Paralympic sports beset by accusations of bullying, discrimination and even sexual assault and child grooming in the past 18 months.

Again declaring millions of pounds of funding was “absolutely” in jeopardy if sports fail to crack down on a problem she said had left her feeling “devastated for the athletes” involved, Crouch warned: “If it means that, as a consequence of that, we don’t secure as many medals in the future then so be it.

“Our athletes start at a very young age to achieve a dream of theirs, which is no different to any of us on a different career path.

“They do not deserve to face bullying and harassment within that journey.”

Crouch said she expected most – but not all – of the recommendations from the Government-commissioned Duty of Care in Sport Review to be adopted by governing bodies. She added of UK Sport’s famous ‘No Compromise’ approach: “I’ve always said that I support ‘No Compromise’ but not at any cost. The drive for medals is very important but that shouldn’t mean that you compromise good, decent behaviour.”

At the top of Crouch’s inbox is still last year’s revelations of historic – and in some cases ongoing – child sexual abuse in the industry.

Crouch confirmed she was lobbying hard for a change to the law to prevent coaches entering into a sexual relationship with someone under their care who is below the age of 18.
Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. Martin Luther King
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