FA apologises to Eni Aluko, Drew Spence for Mark Sampson remarks
The Football Association (FA) has admitted that former England women's manager Mark Sampson made "discriminatory remarks" to two England players, and offered an official apology.
Sampson was sacked last month for historical safeguarding issues relating to a previous job at Bristol Academy, but the governing body apologised on Wednesday to Chelsea players Eni Aluko and Drew Spence before key executives were due to face questioning in the UK Parliament.
Sampson, who has always denied any wrongdoing, was accused of asking Spence "haven't you been arrested before then, four times isn't it?" and, on a separate occasion when Aluko told him her family were over from Nigeria for a gathering, told her: "Make sure they don't come over with Ebola."
Independent barrister Katharine Newton, who conducted two investigations into the complaints for the FA, described these as "ill-judged attempts at humour" in her report to the governing body.
But as the report was published on Wednesday for the digital, culture, media and sport (DCMS) parliamentary committee, the FA released a statement from chief executive Martin Glenn.
In it, he said: "On behalf of The Football Association I would like to sincerely apologise to Eniola Aluko and Drew Spence.
"Based on new evidence submitted to independent barrister Katharine Newton, she has now found that they were both subject to discriminatory remarks made by an FA employee. This is not acceptable.
"In her final report Newton concluded that on two separate occasions Sampson made ill-judged attempts at humour, which as a matter of law were discriminatory on grounds of race within the meaning of the Equality Act 2010. Katharine Newton did however conclude that Mark Sampson was not racist.
"She also concluded that there was no evidence to support the allegations that Eniola Aluko was subjected to 'a course of bullying and discriminatory conduct' by Sampson."
Glenn said the FA fully supported the recommendations of the final, reopened, second Newton report, which advised equality and diversity training be undertaken by all staff at the FA if they have not already done so.
She also said she would have advised the same course of action for Sampson, had he still been in post.
It was confirmed the FA's conduct in investigating complaints by players was deemed inadequate by Newton.
The conclusions of the barrister's first report said: "I do not consider the manner in which the original investigation was carried out and ultimately conveyed to EA [Aluko] was in accordance with best practice ... the fact remains that EA has not received an adequate response to the complaints raised.
"There is no grievance procedure, nor any obvious grievance framework which covers players in EA's position. Thought does need to be given to putting appropriate procedures in place."
The FA said previously that Sampson had been cleared by both of Newton's reports.
The barrister reopened the second investigation when she was able to interview more players as witnesses and Glenn's apology has followed that, but Newton made it clear in her finalised second report that her conclusions had not changed at any stage.
Aluko, in separate written evidence to the DCMS committee, gave her view on how and why the FA acted as it did.
She said: "I also consider the FA's investigations into the complaints that I raised have been a shambles and inadequate. They initially supported Mark Sampson and, as the case developed, backed themselves into a corner with that decision, until in my view the adverse media publicity became too great and he was dismissed."
Aluko said during Wednesday's inquiry: "My overwhelming emotion is just relief, because it has been a long process getting to this point -- I say it in my statement that I'm not the architect of any of these circumstances, I was pretty much put into this situation but I was always honest and truthful about those comments and about the culture of the team under Mark Sampson so I feel vindicated in that honesty and that truth and I'm a human being and I feel relieved because it suggests that it was all worth it."