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ESPN FC  By ESPN staff

England women's boss Mark Sampson sacked over 'unacceptable behaviour'

Mark Sampson has said he did nothing wrong with regard to striker Eni Aluko.

England women's manager Mark Sampson has been sacked over "inappropriate and unacceptable behaviour" relating to his time in charge at Bristol Academy.

Sampson, 34, who led England to a 6-0 win over Russia in a World Cup qualifier on Tuesday, has been the subject of allegations of racism, harassment and bullying. But the decision to remove Sampson from the post is not in connection to that, and the Football Association said it "stands by the findings of the independent barrister Katharine Newton's investigation" which cleared him of all wrongdoing.

Instead, the FA has taken action after being provided the full report of an investigation into an incident at Bristol Academy, who Sampson managed prior to his move to the national team in December 2013, which centred around "safeguarding allegations" which FA chief executive Martin Glenn said suggested he had "overstepped the professional boundaries between player and coach."

Bristol Academy is a senior professional team, which was last year renamed as Bristol City Women's Football Club, in the Women's Super League.

A statement issued by the FA read: "The Football Association can confirm that Mark Sampson's contract as England Women's head coach has been terminated with immediate effect.

"Prior to taking charge of the national team in December 2013, Sampson was manager of Bristol Academy. In 2014, safeguarding allegations were made against him about his time with Bristol Academy. The safeguarding assessment was that he did not pose a risk working in the game.

"However, the full report of that investigation was only brought to the attention of the current FA leadership last week and it is our judgement that it revealed clear evidence of inappropriate and unacceptable behaviour by a coach.

"It is on this basis that we have acted quickly to agree a termination of Sampson's contract.

"In respect of investigations into specific allegations made by Eniola Aluko in 2016, The FA stands by the findings of the independent barrister Katharine Newton's investigation. Sampson has denied all of the accusations put to him and no evidence of wrong-doing was found.

"We will continue to support the independent investigation as it reviews the recent evidence presented to it and publish any new findings and recommendations."

Mark Sampson managed the England women's team for almost four years.

Sampson led England to the semifinals of both the 2015 World Cup, finishing third for the nation's best-ever performance, and the 2017 European Championship. But after more than two months of claim and counter-claim over his fall-out with Aluko, his reign is now over due to a completely unrelated matter.

Glenn added: "I have to say this is the most awkward and complicated issue I have ever dealt with. It is a different issue to the one being raised the Eni Aluko allegations.

"In 2014, there was a safeguarding-related complaint made about Mark Sampson when he was coach at Bristol Academy. He had been an FA employee for just a few months. There was a full investigation, a proper investigation, an assessment process and when the report concluded in March 2015 he was deemed not to be a safeguarding risk.

"However, the full report of that investigation was only made known to me at the end of last week. On reading it I immediately shared it with FA chairman Greg Clarke and we were both deeply concerned with the contents of the report.

"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.

"We felt that during his time at Bristol, Mark had overstepped the professional boundaries between player and coach. We both agreed that Mark's position was untenable and we shared it with the board over the weekend.

"We had a subsequent meeting with the board on Monday because obviously the full implications had to be assessed. The board unanimously support our recommendation and therefore today we terminated Mark's contract.''

A Commons select committee hearing is reportedly planned for next month, which would see senior FA executives face a parliamentary inquiry over the investigations into Aluko's claims. 

Tracey Crouch, the minister for sport, said: "This situation is a mess and raises very serious questions about whether the historic processes that the FA had in place around the recruitment of coaches were appropriate, for something like this to have been missed. The FA are right to have taken action but reassurances is needed to make sure this does not happen again at any level of coaching."

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