Saturday 17 March 2018

Mark Sampson sacked as England manager by FA after 'unprofessional relationship' with players

England manager Mark Sampson
England manager Mark Sampson

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Mark Sampson was sacked as England women’s manager today for inappropriate relationships with his female players during his previous spell as manager of Bristol Academy.

Football Association CEO Martin Glenn made the decision after reading an FA safeguarding report into Sampson over allegations concerning his relationships with his players while at Bristol, where he ran the 16 to 19 programme and coached their women’s first team. The FA safeguarding panel decided in 2015 that Sampson could continue to work in football, but when Glenn reviewed the report in detail he decided that Sampson had “overstepped the professional boundaries between player and coach”.

Sampson had been pursued by accusations of racism and bullying all summer but his dismissal was not directly connected to those incidents. But the FA decided to re-examine the safe-guarding case after a tip-off last week from someone outside the organisation.

Sampson left Bristol Academy for the England job in December 2013 but it was in 2014 when the FA was made aware of the allegations concerning his inappropriate relationships. In March 2015 a safe-guarding panel cleared Sampson to continue to be a “participant in football” and sent him on a development and mentoring programme to emphasise the appropriate boundaries between coach and player.

In October 2015 Glenn learned that Sampson had been cleared by an FA safe-guarding report but did not ask for full details, a decision he admitted on Thursday afternoon that he regrets. But last week the FA head of HR and head of legal were advised to re-examine the initial report made for the safe-guarding panel, which Glenn decided meant Sampson had to be dismissed.

“The full report of that investigation was only made known to me at the end of last week,” Glenn said this afternoon. “On reading it I immediately shared it with Greg [Clarke] and we were both deeply concerned with the contents of the report. Mark had overstepped the professional boundaries between player and coach. When I first read the report I absorbed it and took Greg through it and we both agreed that Mark’s position was untenable and we shared it with the board over the weekend.”

Glenn did not criticise the safe-guarding process but said that ideally the findings of the report would have been used to make a more “holistic” decision about Sampson’s suitability to work. Glenn does not think Sampson’s conduct was appropriate for a man in a coaching role.

“We judge it is not right for any FA employee with having conduct like that behind them,” Glenn said. “The safeguarding work was appropriate but we think the failing in our particular case the organisation’s ability to balance the critical need for total confidentiality on safeguarding case – because if you didn’t have confidentiality people wouldn’t raise it – with the judgement about how much of that information should be shared on more holistic decisions about general conduct.”

The main players in the Mark Sampson scandal

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 responsible for hiring 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.

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