Skip to main content

"If you want some accessible but informative insight into football then I suggest you couldn't do better than the Political Economy of Football website, which is not only intelligible but comes with the added bonus of being written by Addicks fan Wyn Grant."
Ben Hayes - Charlton Athletic programme

FA in a mess says sports minister


Sports minister Tracey Crouch has called the situation surrounding the terminaton of Mark Sampson's contract as women's head coach by the FA a 'mess'.  Crouch is a qualified football coach, manages a girls' football team and is a keen Spurs supporter.  She was the first Conservative minister to take maternity leave.

In 2014 safeguarding allegations were made against Sampson concerning his time as a coach at Bristol Academy.  The FA stated: 'However, the full report of that investigation was only brought to the attention of the current FA leadership last week, and it is our judgement that it revealed clear evidence of inappropriate and unacceptable behaviour as a coach.'   No details are available, but it would appear from radio interviews that the question was one of the boundaries between a coach and a player.

In relation to specific allegations of racist comments made by England player Eniola Aluko, the FA stands by the findings of an investigation made by an independent barrister: 'Sampson has denied all of the accusations put to him and no evidence of wrongdoing was found,'   On October 17th the House of Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee is due to question FA executives about claimed failings in the investigation.

FA chief executive Martin Glenn has now sacked two England managers, Sampson and Sam Allardyce, almost 12 months apart because of off-field conduct issues.  It has been suggested that as Sampson was a good choice, the FA was prepared to overlook certain matters, but this has been emphatically denied.

Glenn was aware of the 12-month investigation into Sampson in October 2015.   It is not clear why the full report of that investigation was not brought to the attention of the FA leadership until last week, but it would appear that external parties were involved in highlighting it contents.

The specific case illustrates continual failures of FA governance.   One of the problems has been that football has regarded itself as a closed community, the 'world of football' which is exempt from the wider rules of society.   As Henry Winter put it in The Times this morning, 'For most of its 154-year old existence, the FA's cover-up culture was rooted in arrogance, in a dismissiveness towards those outside their august committee rooms continuing long after the Victorian era.'

The FA is a failed organisation, as is evident from the high turnover of staff which only compounds the underlying problems.  Glenn is a modernising chief executive, but he face skeletons tumbling out of every cupboard.

The current government is very reluctant to extend the regulatory state.   State regulation has a very mixed record, e.g., Ofcom is thought to have been much more effective than the energy regulator Ofgem.  Any state intervention would run up against a tangled web of historical precedents and vested interests backed by big money.   There would be a big risk of yet another government failure.

Threats have been made in the past that there will be intervention by government if the FA does not get its house in order.  The House of Commons committee needs to give FA executives a tough grilling. Tracey Crouch needs to continue to give it large and make it clear that business as usual is not acceptable.  The 'blazer brigade' still has too big an influence on the FA and the success and appeal of the game induces complacency about its governance.