Mark Sampson: Stevenage coach's charge of using racist language not proven

Stevenage first team coach Mark Sampson on the sidelines
Mark Sampson previously said he was "completely confident" he would clear his name

A Football Association charge against Stevenage coach Mark Sampson for the alleged use of racist language has been dismissed after his case was found not proven by an independent commission.

The former England women's manager was charged in November after an allegation by a former coach at the club.

Sampson, 37, denied the charge and had a personal hearing earlier this month.

"I am pleased the findings concur with our own internal investigation," Boro chairman Phil Wallace said.

The case centred on a meeting between coaching staff on 2 September when, while discussing transfer targets, it was alleged that Sampson was heard to say: "You can't have a black Nigerian centre-back, you can't rely on them."

Following the charge, League Two side Stevenage said the allegations had "no foundation", while Sampson was "completely confident" he would clear his name.

Sampson's case was heard on 9 and 10 January at Wembley Stadium, with former Stevenage manager Dino Maamria and ex-Boro coach Ali Uzunhasanoglu giving evidence against him.

Sampson joined Stevenage last summer as first-team coach, and had a spell in caretaker charge after Maamria was sacked in September.

'The truth was unquestionably hard to find'

The independent commission heard that the alleged incident was not reported to the club or the FA by Uzunhasanoglu until more than a week after the meeting took place, and after both Maamria and Uzunhasanoglu had left their roles at the club.

However, it was determined that none of the evidence given by "any one of those who attended the meeting" was "compelling, or sufficiently compelling, to allow the commission to be confident that they could properly base a judgement upon it".

In the written reasons of the regulatory commission, it was noted: "This was not a case where it could sensibly be said that a witness had somehow been mistaken about what had, or had not, been said at the relevant time. Put simply, some of those giving evidence had lied.

"It is clear that misplaced loyalty and a willingness to be untruthful was an inescapable part of this case. Collusion of evidence, one way or another, was unattractively at play in this case."

The panel continued: "The commission found several parts of the evidence called by both of the parties to be lacking the cogency or reliability upon which to base a sound evidential assessment of the facts.

"The truth was unquestionably hard to find.

"The commission did not find the evidence of any one of those who attended the meeting compelling, or sufficiently compelling, to allow the commission to be confident that they could properly base a judgement upon it.

"Equally, consideration of the collective evidence called in respect of the two quite different versions of the same meeting, did not enable the commission to have that necessary confidence.

"Such analysis should not be taken to suggest that the commission rejected outright the evidence of Mr Maamria and Mr Uzunhasanoglu. They did not.

"Nor should that analysis be taken as a suggestion that the commission unequivocally accepted the account given by Mr Sampson and those called in support of his case. They did not.

"The finding of this commission is determined by the proper application of the burden and standard of proof. The evidence was not of a kind to enable the commission to be satisfied to the requisite standard of proof that the words had in fact been spoken."

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