August 22 – Despite being cleared of any wrongdoing after one of his star players Eniola Aluko made a complaint to the English football authorities about “bullying and harassment”, the coach of the England women’s team Mark Sampson is back in the firing line.
A week after the English FA announced that Sampson had no case to answer following an independent inquiry, Aluko, who has 102 caps but has not been selected since making the claims in May 2016, has now gone public with details of her allegations against him.
Aluko was reportedly paid an £80,000 fee to sign a confidentiality agreement which her lawyers claimed was to prevent her talking about the case. However, the FA said this was to avoid the threat of an employment tribunal disrupting the squad’s preparations for the recent European Championships in the Netherlands.
Last week the FA published a summary of the inquiry’s findings – in the form of a letter to Aluko – written by the barrister who conducted the review. “I do not consider Mark Sampson held a longstanding negative bias against you based on negative racial stereotypes,” the barrister said. “Nor do I consider he subjected you to a course of bullying or belittling behaviour.”
But the letter added there were a “number of areas where certain matters could have been handled better” and cited poor communication.
Providing fresh details of what sparked her claim, Aluko told the BBC on Monday: “In 2014 we had a big game against Germany. It was at Wembley and we had a big list of friends and family who would be coming to the game.
“I found myself next to Mark Sampson next to the board. He asked me, ‘Who’s coming to watch the game for you?’ I said, ‘I’ve got family flying in from Nigeria’. And he said, ‘make sure they don’t come over with Ebola.’”
“I’m used to industrial language, used to sometimes a bit of banter, a bit of a joke – but that was about my family coming to a game, and at the time, Ebola was a sensitive thing.”
Asked if she believed it was a racist comment, Aluko replied: “Yes, I believe it was. I believe it was an unfavourable comment made to me that made me feel completely shocked and intimidated, that was said to me because I’m of African descent. I don’t know anybody else in the team who has been asked to make sure their family do not come over with Ebola.”
Following her BBC interview, English authorities were urged to re-investigate the case by the anti-racism pressure group Kick It Out which said her comments “throw new light on the allegations.”
“The situation regarding this is now one of utter confusion with claims and counter-claims,” Kick it Out said.
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