Footballer Eniola Aluko has spoken publicly for the first time about the “bullying and discrimination” she says she was subjected to by England head coach Mark Sampson.
In her first broadcast interview since details of the controversy emerged earlier this month, the Chelsea Ladies striker – who has 102 caps and scored 33 goals for her country – told the BBC:
- She was dropped by England just days after she had made allegations against Sampson having been asked by the Football Association to be part of a review – and suffered “victimisation as a result of me reporting discrimination”.
- Sampson made what she says was a “racist comment” about her family in Nigeria being infected with the Ebola virus that left her “shocked and intimidated”. The FA said this allegation arose in informal correspondence and was not included in her complaint. Sampson vehemently denies saying this.
- Two investigations into her grievances were “flawed” because key witnesses were not spoken to and key evidence not looked at.
Last year, a three-month independent investigation did not uphold any of Aluko’s complaints and cleared Sampson and the FA of any wrongdoing.
On Monday, the FA strongly denied Aluko’s claims, insisting the timing of her being dropped was purely coincidental and that all evidence given to the review remained confidential and anonymous.
It also pointed out that Aluko, 30, failed to co-operate with the independent investigation, and another witness withdrew from the process.
When asked by the BBC why she refused to participate with the investigation, Aluko said: “I couldn’t take it seriously. I knew they hadn’t spoken to key people.”
Last week, the governing body published a summary of the report’s findings, in the form of a letter sent to Aluko, written by the barrister who conducted the review.
“I do not consider Mark Sampson held a longstanding negative bias against you based on negative racial stereotypes,” it said. “Nor do I consider he subjected you to a course of bullying or belittling behaviour.”
But it added there were a “number of areas where certain matters could have been handled better” and cited poor communication.
Sampson said he would be looking to improve his “general communication style”, as suggested by the report.
Sampson, 34, is arguably England’s most successful boss, guiding the Lionesses to the semi-finals of both the 2015 World Cup and Euro 2017.
Following Aluko’s interview, football’s anti-racism campaign group, Kick It Out, called on the FA to undertake a “comprehensive and independent review” of the matter.
This article originally appeared on BBC Sport. Read and watch the full interview on BBC Sport here