England has terminated the contract of women’s national team manager Mark Sampson with immediate effect due to evidence of misconduct from his previous role with Bristol Academy, since renamed Bristol City Women. The FA says that it was only recently made aware of all evidence regarding allegations from 2014, and that it showed “inappropriate and unacceptable behavior by a coach.” Sampson is accused of having inappropriate relationships with multiple players at Bristol.
Sampson was first investigated for alleged misconduct in March 2014, with the investigation finishing in 2015 and concluding that Sampson was not a safeguarding risk, meaning he was not deemed to be a risk to the welfare of children. The FA accepted that conclusion, but apparently didn’t bother to read the full report in 2015.
Last week, FA CEO Martin Glenn was urged to read the entire report and was worried by what he found. “On reading it I immediately shared it with [FA Chairman Greg Clarke] and we were both deeply concerned with the contents of the report,” Glenn said. “Let’s be really clear: no laws were broken; Greg and I are not able to challenge the professional views of our safeguarding experts. We thought the conduct issues raised in the report were what the problem was.” According to Glenn, the problem was that Sampson “overstepped the professional boundaries between player and coach.”
The allegations that caused Sampson to lose his job are unrelated to accusations by two black players that he made racially insensitive comments towards them. Sampson is accused of asking Drew Spence how many times she has been arrested and telling Eni Aluko that her Nigerian relatives should be careful not to bring the Ebola virus with them to England.
In independent investigator hired by the FA cleared Sampson of wrongdoing in both cases of alleged racial abuse. However, neither Spence or Aluko was interviewed during those investigations. The FA recently started a third investigation into Sampson for alleged racism after being presented with new evidence.
Another player, Katie Chapman, believes that she was dropped by Sampson because of her struggles with a recent divorce and child care responsibilities.
During his tenure with the national team, Sampson helped guide England to a third-place finish at the 2015 World Cup and a semifinal appearance at UEFA Euro 2017, following wins over Scotland, Spain, Portugal, and France. That unprecedented level of on-pitch success for the Three Lionesses helped Sampson retain support from players and executives even in the face of allegations of racism and sexism.
The FA claims that it learned of the evidence against Sampson from the 2014 investigation last week, but he was still allowed to coach the team in a World Cup qualifying match Tuesday. England defeated Russia, 6-0, in the game, which featured Nikita Parris directing the whole team to celebrate with Sampson in a show of support following her goal.
The official England women’s national team account sent out a tweet with a similar message, one that came off as insensitive to the severity of the accusations made by Aluko and Spence.
But less than 24 hours later, Sampson was sacked.
Because the incidents that got Sampson fired occurred before he was hired, his departure is not the end of the controversy surrounding England’s women’s program. The people at the FA in charge of both his initial appointment and his retention despite everything he was accused of.
This is about to get so much worse for the FA...Sampson may not be the only person leaving their post— Matt Slater (@mjshrimper) September 20, 2017
This has turned into a PR nightmare for FA. Sampson's departure will raise serious questions about due diligence his bosses did when hiring— Dan Roan (@danroan) September 20, 2017
While Sampson’s departure was clearly a good and necessary thing, it’s not going to solve any of the FA’s problems. Its leadership apparently failed to do a thorough reading of the 2015 safeguarding allegations report on Sampson, then botched two separate investigations into alleged racial abuse. It seems unlikely that Sampson will be the last person to lose their job due to this scandal.