The FA is facing calls for greater transparency over the Eni Aluko “hush-money” case and is being urged to do more to move away from a culture of “stale, pale, white old men” in keeping with its promises to promote equality.
Football’s governing body is facing new questions after the Guardian’s revelations that Aluko was paid £80,000 as part of an agreement following a bullying complaint – not upheld by the FA – featuring an account of how one of her younger team-mates in the England women’s setup was upset by a “highly inappropriate” comment from Mark Sampson, the national team manager.
Aluko, who is also a qualified lawyer and has made herself unavailable for England for as long as Sampson is manager, has stated she is unable to speak about the matter because of the terms of the agreement.
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However, her complaint to the FA details how her team-mate, a mixed-race player, was “distressed” in one meeting when Sampson asked how many times she had been in trouble with the police. “Haven’t you been arrested before?” he allegedly said. “Four times, isn’t it?”
Sampson was cleared of any wrongdoing by an internal FA review and the organisation also paid for a barrister, Katharine Newton, to hold a separate inquiry. Newton’s verdict also exonerated Sampson, although it is understood both Aluko and the player in question were not interviewed.
Aluko’s case claimed her team-mate had felt unable to speak out because she was scared of losing her place, and the eight-page complaint alleged there were “derogatory, racial and prejudicial connotations” attached to a question of that nature being asked to a mixed-race player from London.
While Herman Ouseley, the chairman of Kick It Out, has asked the FA if he can see its full finding, one of the sport’s other campaign groups, Show Racism the Red Card, is hoping the governing body can learn from what has happened. “It could certainly be used as an example in training [of equality issues],” Ged Grebby, the organisation’s founder and chief executive, said. “From the comments I have read, I can understand why Eni Aluko has said it was inappropriate.”
Of the FA in general, he added: “If you have equality in your statute books, you need to put it into practice and the FA still tends to be stale, pale, white old men. I know they have done some things to improve that, and brought in some good people, but this is another example where training is important and transparency would have helped.”
Ouseley has been following the story since it emerged Aluko had been paid £80,000 – the official explanation from the FA being that it wanted to “avoid disruption” before the European Championship last month – and he has asked the authority if it would supply him with the full details.
“I’ve said to the FA, and made it clear to them, that if I was asked publicly by someone: ‘Have you got confidence in the FA’s procedures in incidents of discrimination?’ I would say I have every confidence in the matters we deal with concerning on-field issues.
“What I couldn’t tell you is whether I should have confidence in the FA’s internal processes such as the one we are dealing with in Eni’s case, as an employee and an employer, because I have never had access to it. That’s what I’m asking: ‘If you, the FA, would like me to have confidence in your processes I need to see this and examine it for myself forensically.’
“If they’re not prepared to say anything, are they prepared to share the information? So far, I’m still waiting for a response.”
Sampson has chosen not to comment, according to his employer, who has referred only to the statement clarifying the manager was cleared of wrongdoing and stating – in direct opposition to Aluko’s account – that the agreement does not prevent her discussing her complaint.
The Guardian knows the identity of the second player but has decided not to identify her. Other sources have confirmed the player told them the same story about Sampson’s alleged remark and that she was clearly upset and demoralised.