Mark Sampson: England women boss to 'improve communication style'

Mark Sampson
Mark Sampson led England to the semi-finals of Women's Euro 2017 this summer, two years after finishing third at the World Cup

England women boss Mark Sampson says he is "looking to improve" his "general communication style" after being cleared of racial abuse.

Sampson was absolved of wrongdoing after striker Eniola Aluko made a complaint to the Football Association (FA) about "bullying and harassment".

She claimed Sampson said an unnamed player would have been arrested several times because she was of mixed race.

But the FA said an independent report found no evidence to support that.

On Thursday, the governing body published a summary of the report's findings - in the form of a letter to Chelsea player Aluko - written by the barrister who conducted the review.

Katharine Newton wrote that she was "sure", having seen video evidence of the team meeting at which Aluko claimed the alleged racial abuse took place, that "at no point on that video is the alleged comment made".

Newton's letter to Aluko also states that:

  • Aluko declined to take part in the investigation;
  • Several other interviewees said they had never witnessed bullying or discrimination by Sampson;
  • None of the eight allegations made by Aluko constituted examples of bullying or discrimination.

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Everyone must conform with England - Sanderson

Review is incredibly important - Sampson

Allegations made by Aluko include her being described as "lazy", Sampson belittling her in front of the squad, and what she said are "false claims" by the coach of "bad behaviour".

In a statement released by the FA on Thursday, 34-year-old Sampson said he "fully understood and welcomed the need for an internal review".

He added: "It's incredibly important that matters like this are taken extremely seriously and investigated in the right way - with the right level of sensitivity and support for all involved.

"The barrister's final report said there was no case to answer and noted that my approach to all players is the same regardless of their background.

"I also appreciated that the report highlighted areas where I could improve my general communication style, and that is something I have taken on board and looked to improve."

Aluko settlement is 'mutual resolution'

Aluko, who has scored 33 goals in 102 England appearances, received about £80,000 in a settlement with the FA.

The governing body described it as "a mutual resolution" to avoid disrupting the England squad's preparations for Women's Euro 2017, which ended in a semi-final defeat by the Netherlands.

Since making the complaint, Aluko has not been picked for England and last played for her country in April 2016, despite being the Women's Super League One top scorer the same year.

However, she still remains a centrally contracted player on a deal worth about £30,000 a year.

A qualified lawyer, Aluko was part of the England team who won the bronze medal at the 2015 World Cup and became the first female pundit to appear on Match of the Day.

Analysis

BBC Sport correspondent Natalie Pirks

In early 2016, the FA's director of elite development Dan Ashworth asked Aluko to be part of a cultural review of all England teams. It's little wonder her opinion was sought - she was a senior member of the women's squad, with more than 100 caps to her name.

Her experiences were to be written up as part of confidential feedback about the culture under Mark Sampson and Aluko chose to speak her mind, presumably believing it would be helpful to the development of the team. After all, in May 2016, Sampson described the Chelsea forward as a "world-class talent who's played a big part in the team's development and success in the two years I've been in charge".

But since her feedback included allegations of a culture of bullying and harassment - including references to an alleged racist incident in a team meeting - she has not played for England. She's since spoken of how she believes Sampson has his favourites.

'I think everyone must conform'

Two further England players have told BBC Sport of their experiences while playing for their country under Sampson.

Defender Anita Asante, 32, said she felt singled out in the way she was dropped from the squad.

And midfielder Lianne Sanderson, 29, said she felt as if she had "fallen out of favour" and was unappreciated, particularly when there was a lack of recognition for winning her 50th cap.

She blamed the culture in the team and said it seemed opinions from players were not welcome.

"I think it's a matter of everyone must conform," Sanderson said. "It's not a matter of being a rebel but I think there's a lot of bias there and sub-conscious manipulation.

"I think I've become controversial because I'm not a robot and I'm not going to be told that I can and cannot say in interviews.

"It's an environment where you're not allowed to have an opinion and any kind of opinion is the wrong one."

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