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Eni Aluko says England Women side have cultural issue with black and minority ethnic players

‘There are either not enough people of colour playing or they’re not getting picked – since I left it has got worse’: Former England Women’s striker Eni Aluko criticises The FA’s ‘damaging’ culture after Lionesses’ World Cup run

  • Eni Aluko says there aren’t enough players of colour in England Women’s team
  • Only two BAME players started for the Lionesses in their World Cup semi-final
  • Aluko believes the FA’s ‘damaging’ culture is a root cause of the problem
  • She said: ‘I prefer to see a team that reflects society a lot more. It’s got worse’ 
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Former England Women’s striker Eni Aluko has hit out over the lack of diversity in the current Lionesses’ side and blamed the Football Association’s ‘damaging’ culture for the problem.

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The 32-year-old, who has previously claimed there is a culture of bullying and harassment within the FA, believes that the England women’s team have a cultural problem with black and minority ethnic players. 

Phil Neville’s England Women’s team enjoyed an unforgettable summer as they reached the World Cup semi-finals in France but Aluko was left frustrated and disappointed by the shortage of players from ethnic minority backgrounds in the side. 

Eni Aluko says England Women side have cultural issue with black and minority ethnic players

Eni Aluko says England Women side have cultural issue with black and minority ethnic players

Only two BAME players started for the Lionesses in their World Cup semi-final against USA

Only two BAME players started for the Lionesses in their World Cup semi-final against USA

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Only two BAME players started for the Lionesses in their World Cup semi-final against USA

Only two BAME (Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic) players started the semi-final against USA in comparison to the five men who played in England’s last-four clash against Croatia last year.

‘To be honest, it’s obvious,’ Aluko told The Telegraph. ‘I’m not the person who’s going to say somebody should be picked just because of the colour of their skin.

‘But in a country like England, which is so multicultural, there are either not enough people of colour playing the women’s game, or they’re not getting picked. I don’t like it. I prefer to see a team that reflects society a lot more. Since I left the team, it has got worse.’

Aluko, who hasn't been called up since 2016, believes it's worse now than when she played

Aluko, who hasn't been called up since 2016, believes it's worse now than when she played

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Aluko, who hasn’t been called up since 2016, believes it’s worse now than when she played

Aluko, who has not been called up to the England squad since May 2016, is also unhappy by the complete absence of BAME members on the Women’s Super League board, which was unveiled last month.

‘There’s enough talk about diversity and inclusion for there to be more respect given to the topic,’ Aluko said. ‘If you’re announcing a board like that, you’ve got to be ready for people to say, “Hang on a second”. We have to be better with that.’

The 32-year-old has not played for England since launching a discrimination case against former manager Mark Sampson.   

She hasn't played for England since discrimination case against former boss Mark Sampson

She hasn't played for England since discrimination case against former boss Mark Sampson

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She hasn’t played for England since discrimination case against former boss Mark Sampson

Aluko accused Sampson of marginalising her and using language with ‘racial and prejudicial connotations’ to her and another player.

The FA’s initial investigation into the claims cleared Sampson of any wrong-doing and paid Aluko an £80,000 settlement fee, which was revealed by Sportsmail in August 2017.

Sampson was sacked by England in September after being found to have ‘overstepped the professional boundaries between player and coach’ during his previous spell as manager of Bristol Academy. 

Sampson, who had been cleared by two previous inquiries, was found guilty of racially abusing Aluko and Drew Spence at the third time of asking and the FA were forced to issue apologies to both players.

The Juventus striker insists she holds no ill feeling towards Sampson, who was sacked in 2017
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The Juventus striker insists she holds no ill feeling towards Sampson, who was sacked in 2017

The Juventus striker insists she holds no ill feeling towards Sampson, who was sacked in 2017

The former England boss has accepted that his actions towards Aluko were regrettable but the Juventus striker insists she now holds no ill feeling against him. 

She added: ‘Honestly, I think that if I bumped into Mark tomorrow, I would genuinely say, ‘Fair play. Move on with your life’. I never set out to destroy anyone, or to get him sacked. I set out to change a culture that was damaging, not just to me but to a few other people of colour. 

‘There are four people I can point to: Anita Asante, Lianne Sanderson, Drew Spence, me. All of us said something against the grain – and none of us played for England again. That says it all.’

TIMELINE OF HOW ALUKO’S CASE AGAINST SAMPSON UNFOLDED

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August 7, 2017: The Daily Mail reveals that Aluko made allegations of bullying and harassment against Sampson and his staff in May 2016. A Football Association investigation concluded in March 2017 cleared Sampson and his staff of wrongdoing but Aluko was paid a settlement in a confidentiality agreement, which the FA insisted was to avoid disruption to England’s Euro 2017 campaign.

August 16: Details of an allegation made by Aluko emerge claiming Sampson made a remark towards another player with ‘racial and prejudicial connotations’. Sampson is alleged to have made reference to the number of times a player had been arrested.

August 17: As pressure grows for more details to made public, the FA releases a statement from Sampson saying he welcomed the investigation and would be looking to improve his communication skills.

August 21: Aluko speaks publicly on the matter for the first time and alleges Sampson made a racist comment to her ahead of an England game. After telling Sampson she had relatives coming from Nigeria to watch the game, Aluko claims Sampson replied: ‘Well make sure they don’t come over with Ebola.’

August 22: The Professional Footballers’ Association backs calls for a new investigation into how Aluko’s complaints were handled.

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September 5: Sampson speaks publicly for the first time about the allegations and says his conscience is clear.

September 11: Damian Collins, chair of the parliamentary culture, media and sport select committee, tells the Guardian the committee is very concerned about the matter and will summon senior executives from the FA to answer questions.

September 12: Sampson appears to contradict evidence he gave to the inquiry when he tells a press conference he cannot recall ever having a conversation about Ebola with Aluko.

September 19: Every member of the starting XI races to the bench to celebrate with Sampson after Nikita Parris nets 11th-minute opener for England in their 6-0 World Cup qualifying win over Russia in Tranmere. The exuberant scenes spark criticism from Aluko, who suggests it was a sign of ‘disrespect’ towards her from within the ranks of the Lionesses.

September 20: Sampson sacked after being found to have ‘overstepped the professional boundaries between player and coach’ during his previous spell as manager of Bristol Academy.

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October 18: The FA apologise to Aluko and Drew Spence for Sampson’s discriminatory remarks after he was found guilty at the third time of asking

October 26: The FA pay Aluko second half of £80,000 settlement fee

November 16: England Women’s goalkeeping coach Lee Kendall resigns following the claim from Aluko that he spoke to her repeatedly in a Caribbean accent.