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18 October 2017

FA 'sorry' but face 'blackmail' claim over ex-manager Mark Sampson race row

By Greg Heffer, Political Reporter

The Football Association apologised to two England women's players over remarks by their ex-manager - just minutes before top bosses faced accusations of blackmail-like behaviour over a race row.

In a statement from FA chief executive Martin Glenn, it was revealed both Eniola Aluko and Drew Spence were subject to comments "discriminatory on grounds of race" by now-sacked manager Mark Sampson.

The public apology came ahead of a bruising encounter for Mr Glenn and his fellow members of the FA hierarchy in front of a committee of MPs.

The FA's contrition towards Ms Aluko and Ms Spence followed a months-long scandal to engulf the women's national side.

Mr Sampson, who left his role last month, had been accused of telling Ms Aluko to make sure her Nigerian relatives did not bring the Ebola virus to a friendly match against Germany at Wembley in November 2014.

He denied that claim as well as another allegation that he asked Ms Spence, of mixed race, if she had been arrested before, then jokingly suggesting she had been arrested four times.

In the FA statement, the organisation revealed new evidence submitted to independent barrister Katharine Newton led her to conclude "on two separate occasions Mark Sampson made ill-judged attempts at humour, which as a matter of law were discriminatory on grounds of race within the meaning of the Equality Act 2010".

But Ms Newton also concluded Mr Sampson "was not racist" and there was "no evidence" to support claims Ms Aluko had been subjected to a course of bullying and discriminatory conduct by the former England manager.

Moments after the public apology was issued, Ms Aluko - also appearing before the House of Commons' Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee - told MPs that Mr Glenn previously intimated to her she would only receive the second part of an agreed £80,000 settlement if she released a statement saying the FA was not institutionally racist.

"I felt that was bordering on blackmail. I categorically refused to write any statement," the Chelsea forward said.

In his own appearance later, Mr Glenn described how it was the FA's view a Twitter post sent by Ms Aluko broke the terms of the agreement.

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