Former England Women’s manager Mark Sampson apologises to Aluko and Spence

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Mark Sampson, the former England Women’s manager, has apologised unreservedly to Eni Aluko and Drew Spence about comments he made to them when he was in charge of the national team.

Sampson was sacked by the Football Association in September 2017 following allegations of “inappropriate and unacceptable behaviour” in his previous role as manager at Bristol Academy.

After bringing a case of unfair dismissal against his former employers, Sampson received a significant financial settlement from the governing body earlier this month.

In October 2017, an inquiry by the independent barrister Katharine Newton found Sampson had “on two separate occasions made ill-judged attempts at humour, which, as a matter of law, were discriminatory on the grounds of race” but went on to add that “it was fundamentally important to emphasise that I have not concluded that MS is a racist”.

Since his dismissal, Sampson has been out of work and has revealed, in an interview with The Times, that he regrets his handling of the complaints from both players.

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

“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.

“When players made complaints, they needed to be handled with the respect they deserved.

“I don’t think it was handled with the humility that it should have been by a lot of people. I certainly should have played a much more active role to ensure they were handled more respectfully. That’s a big regret I will always have.”

The 36-year-old became England Women manager in 2013 and led them to a third-place finish at the Women’s World Cup in Canada two years later.

Under Sampson’s leadership, the Lionesses got to the semi-final stage of the Women’s Euros in 2017 before losing to eventual winners The Netherlands.

His final match in charge was in September 2017 when England beat Russia 6-0 in their World Cup qualifying campaign for this year’s tournament in France. That game had some controversy after Nikita Parris and her Engalnd team-mates ran to celebrate with the under-fire manager after she had scored, a gesture which was not appreciated by Eni Aluko.

Sampson has since made efforts to correct his behaviour and said: “As a white male I needed to do more and I’ve worked hard to educate myself.

“I spent six weeks with Kick It Out on their educational course for equality and diversity. I need to play a more active role in making a difference. It’s something I will do for the rest of my life.”

Phil Neville succeded Mark Sampson in January 2018 and will hope to lead his team to victory at the World Cup which begins on 7 June in France.

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