FA should lis­ten to Aluko af­ter han­dling case ‘re­ally badly’ – Crouch

The Guardian - Sport - - Front Page - Sean In­gle

The sports min­is­ter, Tracey Crouch, has urged the Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion to take up Eni Aluko’s of­fer to help it re­form af­ter agree­ing its rep­u­ta­tion had been “tar­nished” by the way it treated the for­mer Eng­land player. Crouch also warned the FA it had to quickly learn lessons from the case and that the nec­es­sary changes to its cul­ture had to come “right from the top”.

How­ever, Crouch stopped short of say­ing the FA was not fit for pur­pose, and gave her qual­i­fied back­ing to the un­der-fire chair­man, Greg Clarke, who she in­sisted is on a jour­ney to im­prove the or­gan­i­sa­tion.

“The FA han­dled the Eni Aluko case re­ally badly,” Crouch told the dig­i­tal, cul­ture, me­dia and sport se­lect com­mit­tee. “It was a mess and it has quite rightly taken the shine off the work the FA has done to re­form. A cul­tural shift takes time. Eni Aluko has said that she wants to be part of that change. I hope they lis­ten to her. I think she has a lot to of­fer. She would be a great as­set in driv­ing those cul­ture re­forms.”

Crouch also dis­missed Clarke’s claim to par­lia­ment last month that he had been un­able to in­ves­ti­gate Aluko’s case af­ter she re­ported deeply in­ap­pro­pri­ate com­ments by the for­mer Eng­land Women’s team man­ager Mark Samp­son un­der sports gover­nance rules. How­ever, al­though she pointed out that Clarke was wrong, she later gen­er­ously de­scribed it as “an in­no­cent mis­in­ter­pre­ta­tion”.

And while agree­ing that Clarke and the FA chief ex­ec­u­tive Martin Glenn’s dis­as­trous per­for­mance in front of the DCMS last month had not painted the or­gan­i­sa­tion in a good light, Crouch re­fused sev­eral times to say whether it was fit for pur­pose.

“It is not for the min­is­ter to say whether the chair or chief ex­ec­u­tive should be in place,” she said. “We would go down a very dan­ger­ous place if you want me to fire them. Be­cause if I can fire them I can hire them. And you do not want a min­is­ter of state to have that power. We sit here and criticise Rus­sia and China but this would be the same.”

Crouch also bal­anced her crit­i­cisms of the FA by point­ing out the progress that had been made in many ar­eas, in­clud­ing term lim­its for board mem­bers and a plan for bet­ter di­ver­sity on the board.

Else­where, Crouch hinted that she was amenable to the idea of an in­de­pen­dent sports om­buds­man to in­ves­ti­gate cases of bul­ly­ing, dis­crim­i­na­tion and other cases of wrong­do­ing in Bri­tish sport. The gov­ern­ment is yet to give its re­sponse to the idea, which is a key rec­om­men­da­tion of a cul­tural re­view of UK Sport by Dame Tanni Grey-Thomp­son, but Crouch said she was look­ing closely at the pro­posal.

“We recog­nise there are is­sues that need to be ad­dressed in sport and, es­pe­cially, elite sport,” she said. “We are look­ing at the rec­om­men­da­tions in some de­tail – in par­tic­u­lar in re­la­tion­ship to the om­buds­men. I think it is an idea we need to ex­plore more. How­ever, once we have the right griev­ance poli­cies in place in in­di­vid­ual sports we might not need to have an in­de­pen­dent om­buds­man.”

Crouch also ac­cepted that there needs to be far bet­ter ways for whistle­blow­ers to come for­ward with­out fear of dis­crim­i­na­tion or los­ing their jobs.

“No mat­ter where you work you should not be sub­ject to bul­ly­ing, dis­crim­i­na­tion or ha­rass­ment,” she said. “It is re­ally im­por­tant we have those safe­guards in place for whistle­blow­ers.”

Tellingly, when asked whether there were any na­tional gov­ern­ing bod­ies with strong whistle­blow­ing poli­cies, she said she “couldn’t think of any off the top of my head”.

It was also put to Crouch that UK Sport had only one per­son em­ployed on ath­lete wel­fare. “That is some­thing they are ad­dress­ing‚” she replied. “The new chair, Kather­ine Grainger, has come in with a very dif­fer­ent back­ground and will put the ath­lete right at the heart of what UK Sport is do­ing. They are look­ing to beef up the ath­lete voice. There is change hap­pen­ing in UK Sport.”

Eni Aluko has said she wants to help drive through re­forms and be part of a cul­tural change at the Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion af­ter its han­dling of her case

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