What is the point of having women as leaders in sport if they are just going to be fellow ‘yes’ people?
You would have to have been sleeping under a very big sporting rock this last week or so if you have missed the news of the sacking of yet another England Football Manager in the past few days. The FA are yet again embroiled in another ‘bad behaviour’ scandal of one of their coaches, but this time, rather that it typically being on the men’s side of the game, it’s on the women’s.
Following England women’s 6 nil defeat of Russia in a World Cup qualifying match on Tuesday 19th September, Mark Sampson (Head Coach) was sacked due to fresh allegations of inappropriate conduct. This follows accusations made by former England Player Eliola Aluko back in August of Sampson’s comments and behaviour towards her as a player.
I will link you to the story from a British newspaper for you to learn more about the saga, as in this post I would like to comment on the after math of the sacking rather than the story itself.
Read Full Story in the Guardian:
On Saturday 23rd September, Head of Women’s Football in the FA, Baroness Sue Campbell, gave her first interview since Sampson’s sacking to the BBC Sportsweek program presented by sports journalist Garry Richardson. I was excited to hear the interview as a big admirer of Sue’s work over the years, she has always had women in sport at the heart of all she does. However, in a time when women’s sport needs her the most, I feel she has let the side down…
Baroness Sue Campbell (left) with Tracey Crouch MP (right)
Firstly, for those of you unfamiliar with Baroness Sue Campbell and her work, I think it’s important that you understand her experience in sport and its development. She has almost single handledly transformed sport in the UK holding a number of high profile and important roles including:
1980 – Regional Officer for the East Midlands Sports Council in GB
1984 – Deputy Chief Executive of the National Coaching Foudantion
1985 – 1995 Became Chief Executive of the National Coaching Foundation
1995 – Chief Executive of Youth Sport Trust
2000 – 2003 – An Advisor to the Department of Culture media and sport
2003 – Appointed Chairman of UK Sport in which she was responsible for the strategy of the London 2012 Olympic Games
2005 – Chairman of the Youth Sport Trust
2008 – Become Baroness Sue Campbell allowing her a place in the House of Lords
2016 – Head of Women’s Football for the FA
As well as her job roles, she has been named on a number of occasions as one of the most influential women in Global sport, often at the top of various ‘women in sport power lists’ and has been an advocate for women in sport since the early days of her sporting career. This is a woman who knows sport in the UK inside and out…
However, listening to Baroness Campbell during the BBC interview was like listening to fellow House of Lords Member Seb Coe dodge questions about the corruption in international athletics…or even as bad as listening to the British PM Theresa May dodge questions about her plans for Brexit. During this interview, in my opinion, Sue become ‘just another one of those politicians’.
Sue began the interview by saying : “It’s been an extremely tough week for everybody. My focus is on the players and the extended support team to make sure we help them through what is a very challenge in time”
Great start you may think – of course she does, she is the head of women’s football which is has been on the up and up for the last 5 years in the UK. However, when questioned further, it was apparent that Sue had carefully rehearsed the answers and as with any good politician, avoided to directly answer any of the direct questions.
When asked by BBC sport reporter, what exactly Mark Sampson has done, Barnoness Campbell replied:
“I think there is a lot of misunderstanding as to how issues like this around safeguarding, although in this case it wasn’t so much safeguarding as it was issues around behaviour…those issues are always dealt with high confidentially as they should be and so when this report was done in 2013 it was dealt with in a confidential manner. It was deemed at the time that what was necessary was a short course which Mark attended and then people were told that the matter was dealt with and told to move on. That is normal procedure around a confidential issue around safeguarding or behaviour. What happened was that due to other issues which have been raised, this confidential report was brought to the attention of the chief executive Martin Glenn a week a go, he made the Chairman aware of it, the Chairman took it to the board and the board took a decision on the the Tuesday morning of the match against Russia that Mark should not be any longer left in charge of the England team.
There is a fine line between the role of the coach and the players in terms of how you conduct yourself with those players. It’s a tough line to understand if you have never been in coaching because clearerly as a coach one of the things you do is to get close to your players to motivate them you have to understand them as individuals and relate tot them as individuals, but of course you cant cross that line between being that motivator, their friend, mentor and coach and going into behaviour that people consider crosses that line in terms of appropriateness.”
This answer truly shocked me. A fine line? What coach out there, grassroots or elite, doesn’t know the difference between appropriate conduct and non-appropriate conduct? I have obviously not read the report by the FA about Mark Sampson’s behaviour so cannot comment or throw out accusations as to what he may or may not have done…but the fact that the Head of Women’s Football has said on national radio that “it’s tough to understand….there is a fine line between the role of a coach and how you conduct yourself with those players”, blows my mind.
As a coach in a sport with individual athletes, I am often in a situation where I may be one on one with an athlete – athletes of all ages, from 8 up to grown adults and from amateurs to elite professionals. It’s my job to motivate, to console, to teach, to encourage, to care for and to get the best out of these people…is she seriously saying that coaches find it difficult to know what is appropriate and what isn’t…because I can tell you now, it’s not bloody hard to work out! Do you know what happens to school teachers who don’t know the fine line…
Listening to this interview, its difficult to know who’s side Baroness Campbell was on – the side of the “strong independent good women who have committed a life time” to the sport, or the administration of the FA.
And I am not the only one to have this view about Sue’s interview. BBC reporter Patrick Collins (also on the BBC show) who has covered football for over 40 years commented:
“Sue is an experienced administrator, I have known her many many years, she has been around the block a few times, but she wasn’t at all convincing was she? She was putting on a brave face on using all these establishments terms. SHe didn’t explain why, if someone needs a short course in appropriate behaviour if he needs to undertake a mentoring program, how can it possibly be appropriate for that man to be the manager of an international football team? It’s a pathetic performance.”
Whether or not you agree with what the England players did during the Russia match (running to publicly support Mark as a goal celebration during the game), whether you think Mark has been treated unfairly, or whether you think that Eli Aluko was paid off… the fact of the matter is, like children in the middle of a parental divorce…the players have been forgotten about.
I am not here to judge the actions of these players, or to throw accusations when I do not fully know the facts of the case, but what I am commenting on is how disgusting it is that these female players, some of whom are very young, have been left in the middle of this situation, caused by a coach who apparently doesn’t know the line between appropriate and inappropriate and a head administrator who simply says the ‘right words’.
Having a women in charge of the women’s game is all well and good, but if she doesn’t support the players at their time of need, what’s the point? Come on Sue, you can do better than that…
There is so much more I could comment on in this interview, but please, have a listen and judge for yourself CLICK HERE
Bio: Coach W is a Track & Field and Weightlifting coach from Europe who has coached both male and female athletes from child to senior success. Her career spans over 20 years and has taken her all over the World working with a variety of athletes and teams. She wants to remain anonymous in order for her to express her opinions about the world of sport.