The English Football Association has been forced to issue a humiliating apology to Nigerian born female player Eniola Aluko for ill judged attempts at joking.
The FA admitted and accepted that jokes made by the team’s manager Mark Sampson were unacceptable and racially prejudiced.
The England striker was speaking before a Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) select committee about events that led to the sacking last month of Sampson as manager of the women’s national team.
Earlier in the year Aluko had alleged that in 2014 Sampson had asked her to make sure her Nigerian relatives didn’t bring the ebola virus to the friendly against Germany at Wembley. It was also claimed that Sampson had also made derogatory comments about another mixed-race player, Drew Spence, during his tenure as England women’s boss.
The Daily Telegraph reported that Sampson was sacked last month following unrelated revelations about inappropriate relations during his time in charge of the Bristol City women’s team, but yesterday’s hearing focused on the claims of racism.
Independent barrister Katharine Newton concluded in her report that Sampson – who had been exonerated on two previous occasions about the allegations – was not racist, but that his attempts at humour towards the two players were “ill-judged”.
Commenting on the findings Aluko said she felt “vindicated and relieved”, adding: “Although I’m grateful to be here, does it have to come to this? There’s been an agenda to protect Mark Sampson, and an agenda to protect the FA’s reputation.”
Aluko, who also alleged that England goalkeeping coach Lee Kendall had addressed her at one time in a fake Caribbean accent, revealed that she had been awarded an £80,000 settlement by the FA.
However, part of this payment would be made only if she released a statement in which she cleared the FA of being “institutionally racist”.
She explained: “Martin Glenn said if I wrote a statement he would release the second tranche of the money. I felt that was bordering on blackmail. I categorically refused to write it. It’s not for me to come up with that determination. I would never say the FA are institutionally racist.
“My comments were based on comments to me and Drew Spence and how they handled that. For Martin Glenn to say I should say that in order to get a payment I was contractually agreed to is appalling.”
FA chief executive Glenn has “sincerely apologised” to Aluko and Spence for the remarks made by Sampson and in a statement the organisation said: “Based on new evidence submitted to independent barrister Katharine Newton, she has now found that they were both subject to discriminatory remarks made by an FA employee. This is not acceptable.”
Neither Glenn nor FA chairman Greg Clarke believed there was a case for them to resign, even though one MP, Jo Stevens, described their governance as “shambolic”.
Instead, said Clarke, they would ensure there was no repeat of the scandal. “There were systemic, historic failings which contributed to this mess,” he admitted. “When I took the job, there was one other decent applicant. It’s career death. I’m willing to risk my reputation to make it better. If it doesn’t get better, it’s my fault.”
HOW THE STORY HAS EVOLVED
August 6: Sportsmail reveals that the Football Association paid hush money to Eni Aluko to keep quiet over an investigation into her claims of racism and bullying against Mark Sampson.
August 8: Aluko speaks out and says she was silenced after making her claims.
August 18: Sampson says he needs to communicate better after FA release summery of report into Aluko’s allegations.
August 21: Aluko claims Sampson once told her to make sure her Nigerian relatives did not bring Ebola to a match at Wembley.
August 23: Lianne Sanderson accuses Sampson and the FA of creating a culture of fear by axing players who dare to raise issues.
August 25: England boss Gareth Southgate gives his backing to Sampson.
August 25: Drew Spence is revealed as the player involved in Aluko’s allegations about a comment made at the 2015 China Cup.
August 30: Aluko says she is ’embarrassed and ashamed to be a participant of women’s football in this country’ after accusing FA of endorsing racism.
September 5: Sampson rejects Aluko’s allegations in his first TV interview since the claims were revealed by Sportsmail.
September 8: England midfielder Katie Chapman claims she was dropped after telling Sampson about her divorce.
September 11: FA officials will face grilling by MPs over the situation, it is announced.
September 14: It emerges that the FA could re-open their investigation after Spence writes to officials, corroborating Aluko’s claim.
September 16: It is revealed that Alex Scott was not interviewed during investigation into the allegations.
September 20: Sampson leaves his role.
October 18: FA apologise to Aluko and Spence.