Football: 'Unacceptable' Mark Sampson sacked as England Women's manager

England's head coach Mark Sampson reacts during the Euro 2017 semi-final against the Netherlands, Aug 3, 2017.
England's head coach Mark Sampson reacts during the Euro 2017 semi-final against the Netherlands, Aug 3, 2017.PHOTO: AFP

LONDON (AFP) - England Women’s manager Mark Sampson was sacked on Wednesday (Sept 20) after evidence of “inappropriate and unacceptable behaviour” during his time at a previous club.

Sampson had been the subject of accusations of racism, harassment and bullying made by former England player Eni Aluko.

But the 34-year-old, cleared over those allegations, has instead been dismissed by the Football Association following a historic safeguarding investigation into his conduct while manager of Bristol Academy.

“The Football Association can confirm that Mark Sampson’s contract as England Women’s head coach has been terminated with immediate effect,” an FA statement read.

Sampson, who last year agreed a new contract to remain as national team coach until 2019, was axed less than 24 hours after taking charge for England’s 6-0 women’s World Cup qualifying win against Russia.

In response to Aluko’s allegations, Sampson’s players had pointedly celebrated the first goal against Russia by running to the coach, prompting condemnation from Aluko on social media.

FA chief executive Martin Glenn admitted his organisation felt they were left with no choice but to part company with Sampson after full details of the Bristol issue emerged.

“I have to say this is the most awkward and complicated issue I have ever dealt with,” he said.

“It is a different issue to the one being raised the Eni Aluko allegations.

“In 2014, there was a safeguarding-related complaint made about Mark Sampson when he was coach at Bristol Academy. He had been an FA employee for just a few months.

“There was a full investigation, a proper investigation, an assessment process and when the report concluded in March 2015 he was deemed not to be a safeguarding risk.

“However, the full report of that investigation was only made known to me at the end of last week.

“On reading it, I immediately shared it with FA chairman Greg Clarke and we were both deeply concerned with the contents of the report.

“Let’s be really clear: no laws were broken. Greg and I are not able to challenge the professional views of our safeguarding experts. We thought the conduct issues raised in the report were what the problem was.

“We felt that during his time at Bristol, Mark had overstepped the professional boundaries between player and coach.

“We both agreed that Mark’s position was untenable and we shared it with the board over the weekend.

“We had a subsequent meeting with the board on Monday because obviously the full implications had to be assessed.

“The board unanimously support our recommendation and therefore today we terminated Mark’s contract.” Sampson’s four-year reign was plagued by controversy.

Chelsea forward Aluko claimed Sampson had told her to make sure her Nigerian relatives did not bring the Ebola virus to the friendly against Germany at Wembley in November 2014.

Sampson denied that claim, along with another allegation that he asked a mixed-race player if she had been arrested before, and then jokingly suggested she had been arrested four times.

Sampson was cleared by an internal Football Association review of Aluko’s claims, and by an independent investigation led by barrister Katharine Newton.