England women''s team coach fired over misconduct in past job

2017-09-20 10:49:39

LONDON (AP) The coach of the England women's team was fired Wednesday over ''inappropriate and unacceptable behavior'' involving his relationship with players in his previous job.

Mark Sampson, who led England to third place at the 2015 World Cup, was dismissed after the Football Association leadership became aware of the full extent of an investigation into his conduct at Bristol's Women's Super League club. The British government said the case raised ''very serious questions'' about the FA's recruitment process.

Sampson left Bristol in 2013 to take charge of England, and the first allegations against the coach surfaced within his opening months as an FA employee. The FA said that a ''safeguarding assessment'' in 2015 before the World Cup determined that Sampson ''did not pose a risk working in the game'' but he was still told to undertake a program to ''emphasize the professional boundaries appropriate to a coaching role.''

Martin Glenn, who joined the FA later in 2015 as chief executive, said he was made aware of the broad allegations at the time but did not know about the contents of the full report until last week.

The findings were flagged up to the FA leadership because Sampson was coming under mounting pressure over allegations of racism, harassment and bullying by former England striker Eni Aluko. Two reviews have cleared Sampson over those claims.

The FA said the report ''revealed clear evidence of inappropriate and unacceptable behavior by a coach.'' The governing body did not provide specifics of the claims against Sampson from his time at Bristol Academy, which was renamed Bristol City Women's Football Club in 2015.

Sampson became manager of Bristol Academy in 2011 after previously heading an under-18s development squad. The club declined to comment.

''No law was broken,'' Glenn said at a Wembley Stadium briefing. ''We felt during his time at Bristol, Mark had overstepped the professional boundaries between player and coach.''

The FA clarified that the claims involved more than one player.

''We know that coaches are in a potential position of power and that position mustn't be abused,'' said FA chairman Greg Clarke, who was appointed in 2016.

Glenn and Clarke gained the approval of the FA board during a meeting on Monday to fire Sampson. But Sampson was still allowed to take charge of England's first qualifier for the 2019 World Cup on Tuesday night, a 6-0 victory over Russia. Sampson was only informed on Wednesday of the fresh concerns about his behavior and the decision to fire him.

''I didn't have an argument with him about this case in point,'' Glenn said. ''I think he recognizes it needed to be investigated and didn't dispute that.''

British sports minister Tracey Crouch said the FA needed to ensure there could be no repeat of the FA's handling of its coaching appointment.

''This situation is a mess and raises very serious questions about whether the historic processes that the FA had in place around the recruitment of coaches were appropriate, for something like this to have been missed,'' Crouch said. ''The FA are right to have taken action, but reassurance is needed to make sure this does not happen again at any level of coaching.''

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Rob Harris is at www.twitter.com/RobHarris and www.facebook.com/RobHarrisReports