Eni Aluko - a watershed moment for equality and diversity in British sport?

Following this week’s select committee hearing at Parliament into the allegations of racism and bullying made against the now former England women’s head coach Mark Sampson, everyone at Mills & Reeve is delighted that Eni Aluko has ultimately been vindicated following an arduous process that would have got the better of many people.

The dignity and courage that Eni has shown in pursuing her allegations of racism – allegations now belatedly upheld – should not be underestimated. We now hope that those efforts will see this week’s developments be a watershed moment in British sport when it comes to equality and diversity.

Over the past 12 months, Mills & Reeve’s sport law team have been advising the Professional Footballers' Association (PFA) and Eni on matters which came to a head at this week’s Select Committee for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport hearing.

Wednesday’s hearing at Parliament has been described as ‘astonishing’ with The FA ‘brutally exposed’ in the worst crisis it has suffered in its 154 year history, after its Chief Executive, Martin Glenn, was forced to issue written apologies to two players, Eni and Drew Spence, who had been subject to racist comments at the hands of former manager, Mark Sampson.

Through a long-standing relationship with the PFA, Mills & Reeve advise a number of its members, and were instructed late last year when Eni was contemplating Employment Tribunal proceedings against The FA.

The possibility of pursuing Employment Tribunal proceedings against The FA came about as a result of England’s women footballers having central contracts with The FA, affording them ‘worker’ status. As a result, Eni was advised of her right to pursue The FA for claims of direct race discrimination, victimisation and whistleblowing detriment through the Employment Tribunal.

The facts of the matter are now well documented. Richard Barker, principal associate in the Mills & Reeve sport law team, has been advising Eni over the course of the last year, with advice ranging from her prospective Employment Tribunal claims, the settlement terms reached, the implication of those settlement terms once matters became public in August 2017, the prospect of pursuing The FA for unpaid settlement sums and, finally, on the process involved in attending this week’s Select Committee hearing. Richard attended Parliament with Eni for the Select Committee hearing, along with Nick Cusack, Assistant Chief Executive of the PFA.

Eni gave evidence to the Select Committee about the “unwavering support” she had received from the PFA, and Mills & Reeve is delighted to have assisted the PFA in providing such support.

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