Baffling for FA to pick same person for third Sampson inquiry
What a remarkable set of events that two separate inquiries into the Mark Sampson affair have been exposed as flawed, at best, and the Football Association thinks the right person to reinvestigate England Women’s manager is the barrister whose work has attracted so much criticism.
If the FA wanted to repair its damaged credibility the best course of action would surely have been to appoint somebody new and accept that the next investigation not only has to look at Sampson’s alleged behaviour but also examine what could be politely described as several large holes, or craters, in the process.
Instead, the governing body continues to blink dumbly when it comes to a story that involves racism allegations, hush money and now the highly questionable decision to keep Katharine Newton on the case despite this being the barrister who did not interview Drew Spence or any of the other players who may or may not have heard what Sampson allegedly said at the China Cup in 2015.
It all feels highly unsatisfactory and the bottom line here is that it is no longer just a story about Sampson’s alleged remarks to Spence and, separately, Eni Aluko. It goes much higher within the FA and the new process should be required to get to the bottom of what happened further up the chain. How, possibly, did the relevant people think the original investigation was satisfactory? Did the FA really try to make a case that it didn’t know Spence’s identity (answer: yes)? And why has there has been so much opposition among the so-called guardians of the sport to do anything about it until Spence came forward to ask – and, granted, she might not have used these exact words – what the hell they were playing at?
Sampson, who denies all the allegations and says Spence and Aluko are making it up, has described the three-month independent inquiry as an “incredibly thorough process”. The truth, however, is that it has been anything but. Newton will meet Spence in the coming week and, after that, interviews need to be arranged with all the relevant players from the China Cup. Start with the ones who were in the room when the alleged comment was made – Jill Scott, Jo Potter and Izzy Christiansen – and go from there. Exactly what should have happened in the first place.
That, however, would still be only half a job. It needs more – an investigation into the investigations – because, without one, draw your own conclusions about what the Professional Footballers’ Association meant when it described the initial review (this one not involving Newton) as “not a genuine search for the truth” and “sham which was not designed to establish the truth but intended to protect Mark Sampson”.
Dan Ashworth, the FA’s technical director, could be summoned when the culture, sport and media select committee tries to establish the true story. Newton, I’m told, might also be called and it is easy to understand why Gordon Taylor and Herman Ouseley, respective chairmen of the PFA and Kick it Out, have indicated she should be removed from the process.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear to have made the slightest bit of difference. The FA – the organisation whose chairman, Greg Clarke, promises transparency then pulls the shutters down – has its fingers in its ears, the default position in times of crisis, and is back in its favourite position, answerable to nobody.