Mark Sampson’s sacking as England Women’s manager raises a number of interesting questions around an employer’s response to allegations of professional misconduct.
Sampson was sacked by the FA following accusations of inappropriate relationships with female players while he was a coach at Bristol Academy in 2013. The accusations were passed anonymously to the FA in March 2014, four months after he took the England manager’s job. A safeguarding investigation was conducted which concluded that he did not pose a risk working in the game, so he was allowed to continue in his role.
The full report into the matter has, however, been reconsidered by the FA this week, leading them to conclude that his behaviour at the time was inappropriate and unacceptable. As a result, Sampson’s contract was terminated with immediate effect.
The FA has been clear that no criminal activity took place and there was no safeguarding risk, describing Sampson instead as ‘overstepping the professional boundaries between player and coach’.
The FA’s code of conduct for coaches talks about showing respect to others, putting the wellbeing and safety of players first, never tolerating bullying and adhering to the laws of the game. One of the consequences of not following the code is being required to leave or be sacked.
From an employment law perspective, the case calls into question the FA’s procedures at the time of the original investigation. They say the full report has only just come to light.
Employers should be sure to carry out fair and reasonable investigations and deal with matters swiftly. It would be interesting to know how the decision was originally made and why the full report was not reviewed months ago.