Raphaël Jucobin explores the FA corruption scandal.
I’ve no idea why you are sending me this. Perhaps you could enlighten me?
Fourteen words that reveal more about the state of the FA than any parliamentary hearing could. Following former England Women’s international Eniola Aluko’s claims that she had suffered racial abuse from then-manager Mark Sampson, the country’s football governing body rushed to scramble together an investigation to save face. What was quickly becoming clear from the inside, however, was that this “investigation” had merely become an exercise in absolving Sampson. When confronted with these claims, chairman Greg Clarke’s short, dismissive email was telling.
So, in early October, when he and several other figures from the ivory tower found themselves in front of a parliamentary committee to investigate the case, Clarke was quick to launch a discussion-derailing tirade on his colleagues at the PFA and their pay. Later on, just as his credibility had seemingly hit rock bottom, he nosedived even further, with ‘the fluff of institutional racism’ as the next subject of Greg Clarke’s parliamentary soapbox.
The verdict was clear, though: the FA had hired a man who they knew had a history of controversy, with similar accusations surfacing from his previous roles. When Aluko’s claims first came to light last year, the FA’s immediate reaction was to offer her a settlement in exchange for her silence. What’s more, half of the agreed sum was withheld until she would make a statement affirming that the organisation was anything but racist, and withdrew her complaints. The investigation that followed had failed to interview any of the players present at the scenes. Concurrent with this – during August 2017 – they had published the following statement on their website: “The FA can confirm an independent investigation found no wrong-doing in respect of a grievance raised by Eniola Aluko.”
When external forces intervened in the investigation, it was proven that Sampson had, amongst other quips asked: how many times Aluko had been arrested; suggested she made sure none of her family members had Ebola; while another member of staff had spoken to her in a mock-Caribbean accent.
But this isn’t the first time that the FA has proved itself to be an old boys’ club. Last year, a string of testimonies from ex-pros, led by Andy Woodward, exposed the extent to which sexual abuse had been rampant in youth clubs. Reportedly, 748 victims have come forward, with the full scale of the affair – and cover up – yet to be fully revealed. Furthermore, the FA’s ‘independent investigation’ into this issue persists as a further attempt to conceal the truth, resulting in a year of little progress, despite a host of clubs being supposedly “under investigation”.
When you throw in the debacle of Sam Allardyce’s tenure as national team coach – which ended when Big Sam was caught advising on loopholes within the FA rules – as well as underhand deals surrounding England’s ultimately failed bid to host the 2018 world cup – which included honorary knighthoods and jobs in the UK for officials’ sons – the FA have hardly covered themselves in glory over the past few years.
It’s easy to take the moral high-ground when looking at the pit of corruption FIFA has dug itself into in Switzerland, but our own governing body is hardly better. Their inaction over various issues is the past few years is symbolic of an organisation stuck in the 20th century, where they assume zero accountability. Clearly, change is urgently needed if football is to finally catch up with society. Homophobia and racism are still problems which plague football, albeit decreasingly so thanks to the work of associations such as Kick It Out. Nevertheless, little has been done at the top – by “football men” – to counter problems that arise in the dressing room, as much as in the stands.
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