Ex-England women’s coach Sampson threatened ref with pole

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Former England women’s soccer team coach Mark Sampson was being investigated for intimidating a female UEFA official with a metal pole at the 2017 European Championship before he was fired.

A review by The Associated Press of UEFA disciplinary cases uncovered details of the investigation that led to Sampson being banned for three games for “insulting, aggressive and insistent actions,” including profane abuse.

UEFA concluded its case on Sept. 21, the day after the English Football Association fired him for “inappropriate and unacceptable behavior” in a separate case focusing on relations with female players in a previous managerial job.

The UEFA investigation into “insulting or molesting acts” by Sampson at the Euro 2017 semifinal has never previously been mentioned in public. The FA declined to comment Friday and its leaders did not mention the UEFA case when they were questioned at a British parliamentary hearing in October about controversies during Sampson’s reign.

Sampson provided statements to UEFA on Sept. 1 about the incidents after England’s 3-0 loss to the Netherlands in the semifinals on Aug. 3.

The UEFA report included multiple expletives that Sampson is said to have used.

An hour into the match, UEFA said Sampson was “verbally abusive” toward the venue director, telling her: “You better sit down.”

Sampson was then accused of confronting referee liaison officer Fijke Hoogendijk after the game outside the referee changing room. Sampson “approached her and shouted aggressively at her and with aggressive body language,” UEFA said.

Summarizing details of the case, UEFA said Sampson was shouting at Hoogendijk and calling her a “disgrace.”

The disciplinary report continued: “He then picked up a metal pillar raising it above his head aggressively before throwing it down hard against the floor. Fijke was concerned he was going to strike her. … Fijke felt intimidated and offended by his actions.”

The FA denied that Sampson lifted the pole above his head, telling UEFA that it would have been impossible given its weight. Sampson apologized for his use of inappropriate language but denied saying he would shut the door in Hoogendijk’s face.

According to UEFA, the FA claimed that “the build-up to the game had been particularly stressful with travel to the stadium disrupted and preparation time considerably reduced.”

But UEFA’s disciplinary body concluded that Sampson’s conduct was of “great concern” as he “threatened the integrity” of an official.

“The language he used and his attitude grossly violated the basic rules of decent conduct and his behavior was insulting,” UEFA said.

The seven-person panel was headed by Partl Thomas of Austria.

“It is without hesitation a cause of sorrow that persons deployed at matches who have no relation to the football performance of the teams are attacked in such an aggressive manner by team’s officials,” the panel said.

“Even accepting the statements of the coach in full it can’t be permitted that UEFA officials like the venue director and the referee liaison officer endure the aggressive manners of others present at the match, let alone the head coach of one of the teams.”

In October, the FA concluded its own investigation into Sampson’s conduct while he was coaching the team and found that he had directed racially discriminating remarks at two of his players. Part of that case centered on a $105,000 financial settlement secretly struck by the FA with striker Eni Aluko to halt her grievance complaint against Sampson ahead of Euro 2017.

Sampson, who led the team to the 2015 Women’s World Cup semifinals, was replaced as England coach by former Manchester United player Phil Neville.