Former England boss Mark Sampson ‘apologises unreservedly’ to Eni Aluko and Drew Spence after bullying and racism accusations

21 Jan

Former England Women manager Mark Sampson has issued an ‘unreserved’ apology to Eni Aluko and Drew Spence as he spoke for the first time since his sacking by the Football Association.

The 36-year-old was dismissed in September 2017 following the emergence of “inappropriate and unacceptable behaviour” in his previous role as manager at Bristol Academy.

Sampson was accused of racism by Aluko (left)

He had also been the focus of bullying and racism claims, first made by Aluko, and then Spence.

The FA said the allegations were investigated, and Sampson was cleared of any wrongdoing.

But Sampson, who reached a financial settlement with the FA over his dismissal earlier this month, said he should have handled the claims differently.

Speaking to The Times, he said: “I answered based on my recollections and what I felt was true to my character and the way I use language.

The England players caused controversy when they celebrated with Sampson during a game with Russia

“I believed strongly that the way the team worked, if I had said something that offended anyone it would have been brought up at the time.

“I was wrong. Ultimately, two players were offended by language I used. For that I apologise to Drew and Eni unreservedly.

“I certainly should have played a much more active role to ensure they [the complaints] were handled more respectfully. That’s a big regret I will always have.”

Sampson was sacked one day after England beat Russia 6-0 following a previous safeguarding investigation into his time at Bristol, where he had a six-month relationship with a player aged over 18.

Aluko is now playing for Juventus out in Italy

“I wasn’t as mature as I should have been during my time at Bristol,” said Sampson.

“My behaviour was unprofessional, which I acknowledged. I crossed a professional boundary. I shouldn’t have, and I fully recognised that.”

Sampson also revealed he has spent six weeks on a Kick It Out educational course, but admitted the investigations into his behaviour and subsequent dismissal have taken their toll.

He added: “When an investigation like that is played out so publicly, the stress, the pressure, it was the most difficult time of my life.

“Not a night or day has gone by where it hasn’t dominated my thoughts, and that will continue for a long time.”