FA and Aluko hearing – five key things we learned

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I didn’t expect it to be Eni Aluko versus the FA

After four hours of questioning, Eniola Aluko and the Football Association were released from a parliamentary inquiry on Wednesday – one vindicated, the other implicated.

Minutes before the hearing started, the FA issued a public apology to Chelsea striker Aluko and team-mate Drew Spence in light of new evidence surrounding race remarks made by ex-England boss Mark Sampson.

Here’s what happened over the following 240 minutes as Aluko, team-mate Lianne Sanderson and senior figures at the FA faced the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee:

1. Black actors and fake accent claims

In a 17-page report sent to the committee, Aluko said she understood a black actor was hired to act out bad behaviour for a role-playing exercise to teach players about “Lioness standards”.

“I know that some England players were uncomfortable with this demonstration, because they believed the actress was perpetrating a negative and unfair perception of me,” said Aluko.

The Nigeria-born striker also accused England goalkeeping coach Lee Kendall, appointed in 2014, of speaking to her in a fake Caribbean accent.

“I don’t think he meant it maliciously,” she said. “He may not have been aware of how annoying it got.

“I’m not Caribbean, I’m of African descent. I thought it was another example of an ignorant mindset and behaviour towards me.”

2. ‘Bordering on blackmail’

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FA chief’s request ‘bordering on blackmail’ – Aluko addresses inquiry

Aluko has 102 England caps but has not added to these since making her allegations as part of an FA inquiry into its management culture in 2016.

The 30-year-old reached a settlement of about £80,000 with the FA following her grievance claim – which the FA said was to avoid the threat of an employment tribunal disrupting the squad’s preparations for Euro 2017.

She confirmed this payment was set to be paid in two instalments, but the second one had been withheld by the FA.

“Martin Glenn [FA chief executive] said if I wrote a statement saying the FA were not institutionally racist he would release the second tranche of the money. I felt that was bordering on blackmail.”

Glenn then denied asking Aluko to do this. And when pushed over whether the FA would be making the final payment, he added: “We’ll reflect on it.”

3. Clarke’s PFA criticism and ‘fluff’

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Greg Clarke became FA chairman in August 2016

FA Chairman Greg Clarke criticised the Professional Footballers’ Association, saying he had a “fundamental problem” with the governance at the top.

He said: “The PFA spends millions of pounds a year on the CEO’s salary and pension and they are walking away from alcoholics, from addicted gamblers. I will never look up to their governance, though I respect their people.”

Later in the inquiry, Clarke was then criticised for referring to institutional racism as “fluff”. He quickly apologised after being chastised by the committee.

“The fact you describe it as fluff speaks volumes,” said Julie Elliott MP. “Language matters.”

4. The apology

Glenn issued the initial apology to Aluko and Spence on behalf of the FA at the beginning of his statement in front of MPs.

When pressed on whether the FA had failed in their duty of care, he said: “There have clearly been failings. I wouldn’t want to then say the organisation is failing. Clearly in this situation there have been failings.

“We have 900 members of staff. On balance I think we do a good job.”

But Clarke was more resolute, adding: “That is a fundamental breach of our duty of care for that person and I feel very bad about that.”

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I’m not a racist – Sampson

Glenn said that Sampson, who was paid nine months’ salary on his departure, may proceed with a wrongful dismissal claim.

Sampson was sacked in September following evidence of “inappropriate and unacceptable” behaviour with female players in a previous role.

Glenn and human resources director Rachel Brace confirmed the 35-year-old had received a “payment related to his contract” – nine months’ salary.

But Glenn added: “We’ve been informed by his (Mark Sampson’s) solicitor that he’s considering filing a claim for wrongful dismissal.”

5. ‘Dragged through the mud’ – reaction

As Aluko, Lianne Sanderson and the FA bosses gave their evidence, celebrities reacted on social media.

Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker said: “Damning and damaging for FA with total vindication of Eniola Aluko.”

In a series of tweets, grime artist Stormzy said: “After all you put the girl through it turns out she was telling the truth.

“Dragged her name through the mud and tarnished her and then anyone who came to her defence was demonised as well.”

Following the FA apology, Aluko and Spence’s Chelsea and England team-mate Claire Rafferty said: “Privilege is invisible to those who have it. #integrity.”

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