Eni Aluko has admitted she feels “vindicated” after an investigation concluded former England women’s manager Mark Sampson made remarks which were “discriminatory on grounds of race” towards her and England team-mate Drew Spence – but he revealed the FA tried to buy her silence and threatened not to pay her.
Independent barrister Katharine Newton concluded in her final report – published on Wednesday – that Sampson was not racist, but that he twice made “ill-judged attempts at humour” towards the players.
Football Association chief executive Martin Glenn has “sincerely apologised” to Aluko and Spence over Sampson’s remarks, calling them “not acceptable”.
Aluko, giving evidence to the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee, said: “My overwhelming emotion is relief, it has been a long process getting to this point.
“I’ve been put in this situation, and was always honest and truthful about those comments and other comments I made about the culture under Mark Sampson.
“I feel vindicated and relieved, It suggests it was all worth it.”
Aluko claimed the FA was “dismissive” when she first made her allegation that 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 – Spence – if she had been arrested before, and then jokingly suggested she had been arrested four times.
“They were very keen to say there was no wrongdoing without looking at the video evidence,” Aluko said.
“They were dismissive straight away in the first meeting. We didn’t speak about specific itemised issues.”
Aluko went on to question whether a similar complaint from a male player would have received the same response.
She said she was “astonished” at an email from Clarke, in reply to a document about the incident from the PFA, which read: “I’ve no idea why you are sending me this. Perhaps you could enlighten me?’
Aluko added: “By the time in November 2016 when the full report was sent, I actually felt sending it to the FA chairman would lead to a better process. But it was the opposite.
“If it’s the FA chairman disrespectfully dismissing the complaint, I have nowhere to go. The last resort is to go the employment tribunal.
“A male player with 102 caps, Wayne Rooney, if they were to send a complaint like that, would he respond like that?
“It’s a separate issue. Are the issues of female players in this country taken seriously enough at all levels of the FA? I would suggest that email says they are not.”
The FA decided to pay Aluko an £80,000 settlement, but she revealed that she refused to put out a statement saying the FA was not “institutionally racist” in order to receive part of the payment.
“Martin Glenn said if I wrote a statement he would release the second tranche of the money. I felt that was bordering on blackmail,” she said.
“I categorically refused to write it. It’s not for me to come up with that determination.
“I would never say the FA are institutionally racist. My comments were based on comments to me and Drew Spence and how they handled that.
“For Martin Glenn to say I should say that in order to get a payment I was contractually agreed to is appalling.”
Following the evidence given by Aluko, and corroborated by former team-mate Lianne Sanderson who voiced her concerns over the lack of a grievance procedure, the FA hierarchy was grilled by the select committee.
Glenn defended the FA’s handling of the case, and insisted: “I believe we have handled this with decency and openness. We took Eni’s concerns seriously.
“We regret that the two comments, the inappropriate banter, was made, but the spirit in which we approached the concerns has been good.”
Clarke was questioned about his dismissive email in response to the PFA, and claimed his hands were tied by the Sport England code.
He said: “I had a number of conversations with a senior member of the PFA who was saying that I need to get involved in this. I explained three times I was forbidden by the Sport England code.
“When he sent me the email I said ‘don’t do this’. All the way through this I’ve tried to stay within my governance box. My job is to chair the board and make sure governance is good, not to run the FA.
“I issued a staccato response, they were sending me things that if I had read would have destroyed my governance ability
“I would do the same again. Sometimes in life you have to be abrupt.”