FA should bring in Eni Aluko to drive cultural change - sports minister
Sports minister Tracey Crouch believes the Football Association should accept England striker Eni Aluko's offer to help improve the governing body's athlete welfare policies following the Mark Sampson affair.
Crouch was speaking to the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) committee a month after Aluko appeared before the same panel to describe her experience of raising a bullying and discrimination complaint against Sampson, the former England women's team manager.
Four senior FA bosses also gave evidence to that hearing in October but their reluctance to acknowledge mistakes made during that process irritated the MPs at the time -- a feeling that has not abated, if today's hearing is a guide.
Crouch was repeatedly asked by the panel if she believes the FA "is fit for purpose" and whether chairman Greg Clarke and chief executive Martin Glenn are the right people to lead the organisation.
The minister avoided giving direct answers to those questions but said the FA must now show it takes its duty of care to athletes seriously, has a robust grievance procedure in place and fixes its "culture, from the top down."
Crouch said: "In my view they should take Eni Aluko up on her offer to help the FA with those reforms. I think she would be a great asset in terms of helping drive cultural change."
On the FA's handling of Aluko's case, Crouch repeated her initial response that it had been "a mess," "a sorry saga" and had tarnished the success Clarke and Glenn have achieved this year, most notably in forcing through the structural reforms required for the FA to comply with her new governance code.
That code, which came into force for the main national governing bodies on Oct. 31, was what Crouch really wanted to discuss -- and she returned to it again and again -- but the backbench MPs were more interested in the various bullying scandals that have hit British sport over the last 18 months.
But while Crouch was careful to avoid personal criticism of the FA's leadership, she did say Clarke was "wrong" when he told them, and the Professional Footballers' Association, that the code prevented him from getting involved in the Aluko case.
Crouch said Clarke has since been informed of his error but she believes it was an "innocent misinterpretation" of the code's language on the separation of powers between the board and the executive.
Having been asked several times, in different ways, if Clarke and Glenn should still be in their jobs, Crouch said: "It's not for the minister of state to say whether or not a chair or chief executive of a governing body should or should not be in place...because if I can fire them, I can hire them.
"We criticise countries like China and Russia for the closeness their governments have with their sports organisations and it's not my job to say a chair or chief executive should or should not be fired."
Crouch's appearance before the committee was meant to be the last session before it concludes its long-running investigation into sports governance but the panel's chairman Damian Collins opened proceedings by announcing there would be one more -- a second hearing on Paralympic sport's classification system on Dec. 6.
Tuesday's hearing also addressed the government's recent recommendation not to criminalise doping, the wider concerns about grievance procedures for athletes in British sport and the employment status of athletes funded by the National Lottery.
There was also a clear signal from the panel that its report would recommend the creation of an independent ombudsman for sport that could deal with the kind of issues the Aluko case flagged up.