Chelsea striker Eniola Aluko believes the manner in which her complaint of alleged bullying, harassment and discrimination was handled by the Football Association (FA) could discourage others from airing similar concerns.
England head coach Mark Sampson and the FA were last year cleared of any wrongdoing after a three-month investigation by an FA-appointed independent panel, following allegations by Aluko that he made comments that were derogatory, racial and had prejudicial connotations.
Details of the complaint, which was made in May 2016, were leaked earlier this month and included the claim that Sampson asked a mixed race player how many times she had been arrested.
Qualified lawyer Aluko says she opted against participating in the FA’s investigation because she considered the process flawed and evidence from key witnesses was not sought, and insists her experience could deter other players from raising grievances.
“If anybody, God forbid, was going through something difficult in the team right now, would they speak out? Judging on what happened to me over the past few weeks, I don’t think they would,” Aluko, 30, told the BBC.
“That is the most damaging thing about this because if you think of a young player, for instance, who wants to play for England in the future – let’s say a young black player – she’s going to look at this and go: ‘If anything ever happens to me, what happened to Eni Aluko? I can’t say anything.’ That to me is the most heart-breaking thing."
The FA has strongly denied Aluko's claims and pointed out that she chose not to cooperate with the independent investigation. It also denied she had been dropped for making the original complaint.
Aluko, who has won 102 caps and scored 33 goals for her country, has not played for England since making the allegations.