The English Football Association is representative of the people.
It’s a bold statement, but one I’m prepared to stand beside having witnessed their handling of the Eni Aluko allegations generally and spent time on football message boards yesterday after the story of Mark Sampson’s sacking broke.
I read message boards frequently when things like this happen. I did so when Ched Evans was initially convicted and then after his conviction was quashed, which was tremendously enlightening. The general consensus last night (excluding a cheering number of people who stood up to it) was that the whole thing was Eni Aluko’s fault – that variously she should have kept her mouth shut, manned up, that people are ‘tired of the race card being pulled’ and enough mentions of the term ‘snowflake’ to build quite the avalanche of hate.
The FA would have preferred that scenario too, although you’d never catch them saying it out loud. Their conduct throughout this sorry mess – from two investigations into Aluko’s claims that found Sampson innocent of any wrongdoing, to their baffling decision to pay her £80,000 despite the findings – screams it more eloquently than any misspelled rant by a threatened, wilfully uninformed bloke.
Yesterday’s exercise was one of damage limitation.
[The FA] was made aware last week of the full details of safeguarding allegations made against Sampson in 2014 relating to his time as Bristol Academy manager.
An excerpt from the FA statement regarding Sampson’s sacking, which came the day after a 6-0 victory in a World Cup qualifier vs. Russia, contains a couple of hints that they’re intent on minimising any claims of wrongdoing on their part.
Mark Sampson was appointed manager of England Women in December 2013. The allegations of“inappropriate and unacceptable behaviour” during his tenure at Bristol City emerged early the following year. Surely any effective monitoring processes would demand a full examination of any allegations, let alone those involving safeguarding issues involving young women? The admission that the FA were unaware of the full extent of the allegations (more than one?) until last week when FA chief executive Martin Glenn read the report, is at best indicative of incompetence at the highest level. At worst? There’s an air of the Scooby-Doo about it.
“We could have got away with it too, if not for those pesky allegations”.
The FA’s hand was forced. When the information came to light they knew immediately that it was only a matter of time before it became public and despite the tabloid media’s own entrenched intolerance to anything that isn’t white CIS male, they’d have hung the association out to dry.
But if they think Sampson’s departure will make the story go away, they’ve made another catastrophic misjudgement. Despite what those on the forums say, a significant proportion of the general public do care about unfairness, racism and misogyny. A lot more care about child protection and given the carelessness these allegations were treated with, the FA’s assertions earlier this year that they’ve begun a ‘deep investigation’ into allegations of child abuse within the English youth system, seem hollow at best.
If the behaviour of the FA is indicative of the organisation’s priorities we can only assume their principle motivation is brand protection. Which is somewhat ironic given that England’s performances under Sampson’s were super. If their results take a turn, and we can only assume they will given the players’ pointed support of Sampson during a goal celebration on Tuesday night, Eni Aluko and her allegations will be conflated with this decision and the narrative will blame her.
The more things change…