Baf­fling for FA to pick same per­son for third Samp­son in­quiry

The Observer - Sport - - SPORT | FOOTBALL -

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.

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