Pressure is mounting on the Football Association to explain what checks were done on Mark Sampson’s suitability for the role of England Women’s manager before and after he was given the role.
The 34-year-old was sacked on Wednesday, less than a day after leading the team to a 6-0 win over Russia, for “inappropriate and unacceptable behaviour” in his previous role as manager of Bristol Academy.
This behaviour was first reported to the FA around the time of his appointment in December 2013 and was the subject of a year-long investigation by the governing body’s safeguarding unit.
He was cleared from a safeguarding children point of view and allowed to continue his preparations for the 2015 Women’s World Cup, where England would finish third, but Sampson was sent on an education course.
All this was detailed in a written report but no senior FA officials read it until it was brought to chief executive Martin Glenn’s attention last week.
The failure to check exactly what Sampson had been accused of and why he was sent on a course has been widely criticised, with Women in Football (WiF) launching a stinging attack on the FA’s leadership.
The lobby group’s anger is only fuelled by the fact Sampson has spent the last year contesting allegations of bullying and racism made by England and Chelsea striker Eni Aluko – but even then the FA did not reexamine his record.
In a statement, WiF said it was “deeply concerned” by the revelations surrounding Sampson’s appointment, which it clearly believes should never have happened.
” WiF understands that questions over Sampson’s suitability for the role were flagged to the FA as early as 2013 during the recruitment process,” it said.
“T he safeguarding investigation of 2014, Sampson being sent on an education course in 2015, Eniola Aluko’s complaint in 2016 and Dame Tanni Grey Thompson’s Duty of Care report published in April 2017 were all missed opportunities for the governing body to more closely examine the issues.
“Indeed it is unfathomable that an England manager could be sent on a course to emphasise the appropriate boundaries between coach and player, as a direct result of a safeguarding investigation, and not be subject to any sort of due diligence.”
Adding that it “routinely” gets complaints of abuse from women working in football, WiF said it relies on the FA’s ability to investigate these matters competently but the Sampson scandal ” suggests an incoherent approach to ensuring football is a safe place for all”.
Glenn did not join the FA until March 2015, so cannot be held responsible for the decision to appoint Sampson, but he chose not to push for details of the safeguarding investigation in October 2015 and has strongly backed the Welshman in the bitter dispute with Aluko, including agreeing to pay her Â£80,000 to settle the case earlier this year.
That decision and the entire handling of her complaints against Sampson are already under intense scrutiny and the FA has been forced to reopen an investigation into the matter by independent barrister Katharine Newton.
The emergence of allegations of improper relations with players during his time at Bristol only compounds what has already been a bruising year for Glenn and his senior team.
It is only 12 months ago that Sam Allardyce was dismissed as manager of the men’s team with what now looks like surprising haste for some unguarded comments to an undercover reporter, and the FA is still under the microscope for what it knew about predatory paedophiles working in football in the past.
With sports minister Tracey Crouch already describing the situation as “a mess”, Damian Collins, the chairman of the influential Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) committee, has accused the FA of an “inexcusable” lack of leadership.
Speaking on Sky News, he said: “(Sampson) 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.”
Describing the issues involved as “incredibly serious”, Collins said the fact Glenn had to be tipped off about the contents of the safeguarding report revealed an “absence of leadership”.
Aluko and her fellow Sampson critic and England team-mate Lianne Sanderson are scheduled to appear before the DCMS committee on October 18. That was originally intended to investigate the FA’s handling of Aluko’s racism complaint but will now look for answers on the whole Sampson affair.
The FA has yet to put anybody up to appear before the committee but it is hard to see how Glenn survives if he refuses the MPs’ invitation, although it may be hard for him to survive if he accepts.
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