The FA’s mishandling of the Mark Sampson saga proves women’s football is no longer an afterthought

By Alasdair Hooper

The Mark Sampson saga is another striking example of Football Association management at its worst.

On Wednesday the England Women’s manager was unceremoniously sacked a day after his side had beaten Russia 6-0 in their opening World Cup qualifier.

The reason? Not the allegations that had been swirling around the Welshman courtesy of former England striker Eni Aluko.

 

Instead his departure was down to the findings from a 2015 report that investigated his conduct during his time at Bristol Academy.

A 2015 report that was only read last week by the FA’s senior management – let that sink in for a moment.

“No law was broken but we felt that, during his time at Bristol, Mark had overstepped the professional boundaries between player and coach,” said FA chief executive Martin Glenn.

“The reason we have parted company with him was that, while the safeguarding team did their job on their specific narrow front, nobody else within the FA was alerted that what he had done was not something you would be comfortable with for an FA employee.

“In his [Sampson’s] eyes, he felt he had been cleared of the issue. And he had been from a safeguarding perspective.

“Our problem was the grown-ups in the organisation hadn’t seen the report and the full detail to make the point about employability.”

 

The ‘grown-ups’ have many questions to answer – not just in relation to this crisis but the already ongoing crisis involving Aluko and her Chelsea team-mate Drew Spence.

Why was the report sat on for two years? Why was Sampson deemed fit to manage the team on Tuesday when the decision about his future had apparently been made the week before? Why was he appointed in the first place?

The list could go on for ever.

Sampson’s acrimonious departure as manager certainly leaves a dark cloud over the women’s game in England.

The new Women’s Super League season is due to get underway this upcoming weekend and the achievements of the Lionesses at the last two major tournaments now seem like ancient history.

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But it is possible to take a positive spin out of all the chaos – would the public be paying attention to a story like this just a few years ago?

The fact that the Sampson saga has garnered as much attention as it has is a sure-fire indicator of the progress made in women’s football in this country.

As the sport grows, increased scrutiny from wider eyes undoubtedly comes along with that.

No longer will issues like this be swept aside ‘because it’s women’s football’.

No longer will prehistoric dinosaurs on social media be able to spurt out their meaningless tripe – namely that no one cares – because people actually do.

Huge credit must go to the likes of The Guardian’s Daniel Taylor who has pushed the issue ever since Aluko first made the allegations – journalism at its finest.

But as depressing as this whole turn of events may be it is a marker of where the women’s game is now. It’s important enough to matter.

More information will undoubtedly come out on this story in the near future and it will be uncomfortable to hear whether you are a fan, player or a member of FA management.

People need to be held accountable for the colossal mistakes and lessons need to be learned.

Yet this saga proves that women’s football is now in the limelight – furthermore people now realize it.

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