Pressure on FA for new inquiry into Sampson
Spence backs up Aluko’s allegations against England women’s manager
The Football Association is giving serious consideration to launching a new investigation into the Mark Sampson affair after Drew Spence, one of the two players to allege he had made a racial remark, came forward for the first time to tell the governing body what Eni Aluko has said about the England women’s team manager is true.
In a key development to a controversy that is threatening to go to the top of the FA, the Guardian can reveal Spence has given a written statement to the organisation alleging that on her first England callup, at the China Cup in October 2015, she was left upset and offended by Sampson asking her, a mixed-race player, how many times she had been arrested.
Spence has also had a private meeting with senior FA officials to give her version of events and is understood to have expressed surprise that the two inquiries which have cleared Sampson of any wrongdoing – one an internal review and the other a three-month independent inquiry, carried out by the barrister Katharine Newton, on behalf of the FA – did not think it necessary to speak to her.
As the Guardian revealed this week, the two inquiries also chose not to interview any of the other players present at the meeting where Sampson is alleged to have turned to a mixed-raced player, then 22, and said: “Haven’t you been arrested before? Four times, isn’t it?” Aluko has described the inquiries as a “farce” and the Professional Footballers’ Association has accused the FA of holding an internal review that was “not a genuine search of the truth” and “a sham which was not designed to establish the truth but intended to protect Mark Sampson”.
Spence’s decision to back Aluko leaves English football’s governing body under mounting pressure to abandon its previous stance that the issue was finished at a time when the culture, media and sport select committee is preparing to summon senior FA executives on 17 October to explain the holes in the process.
Although the FA is not making any comment, there is a growing feeling within the organisation it has made significant errors during a controversy that has led to calls from Kick It Out, the PFA and the shadow sports minister, Dr Rosena Allin-Khan, for another inquiry. The FA is also likely to come under pressure for Newton not to be involved in any new process.
At the same time Sampson may face a more in-depth investigation into Aluko’s allegations – repeatedly denied by the manager – that he told her to be careful her Nigerian relatives did not bring the Ebola virus to a game at Wembley. Aluko was paid an £80,000 settlement, including a confidentiality clause, while the sum total of the FA’s investigation appears to have been asking Sampson whether it was true and receiving his denial.
Aluko told the Guardian in an exclusive interview on 21 August she felt she had lost her 11-year, 102-cap England career as a result of reporting grievances about Sampson and the FA’s credibility has come into question because of what appear to be other shortcomings in the investigation.
The original explanation for not interviewing Spence was the FA did not know her identity, with Aluko being blamed for apparently “refusing” to help. Yet Aluko, a qualified sports lawyer, supplied evidence that clearly states it was a mixedraced midfielder who was raised in south Arsenal’s Europa League tie with Cologne kicked off an hour late last night, amid chaotic scenes inside and outside the Emirates Stadium.
The kick-off was delayed as 20,000 Cologne fans, who earlier in the day had massed on Oxford Street, descended on the stadium and blocked entrances, causing police to close the two main access bridges.
Inside, there were many more Cologne fans than the 3,000 who had been allocated tickets in the away end for the sold-out match. The Metropolitan Police said that it was dealing with “disorder” outside the ground and had deployed additional officers. An Arsenal spokesman said the two clubs had held discussions about an excess of away fans coming to the match, but it was not enough to prevent the problems that will now be subject to a post-mortem by Uefa, Arsenal and the police.
Mark Sampson is facing another inquiry after Drew Spence finally came forward