EXCLUSIVE: FA director Edleen John accused of bullying by a colleague

EXCLUSIVE: FA bully STORM as director for equality Edleen John is accused of being aggressive and malicious, as she admits to ‘pushing boundaries’ and vows to ‘grow as leader’ after complaint

  • Sportsmail understands the complainant accuses Edleen John of bullying and intimidating behaviour
  • John joined the FA in September 2020 and her influence has grown considerably
  • The well-respected executive is also scheduled to travel to Qatar as part of the FA’s senior delegation for the World Cup draw next month
  • John, in the complaint, is accused of shouting, being dismissive, giving unjust criticism, using aggressive tactics and malicious behaviour 
  • One of the Football Association’s most senior directors has been accused of bullying in a damning written complaint made by a colleague, Sportsmail can reveal.

    The governing body’s director of international relations, corporate affairs and co partner for equality, diversity and inclusion Edleen John is the subject of the complaint made by a fellow employee at the FA.

    Sportsmail understands the complainant accuses John of bullying and intimidating behaviour.

    In a heartfelt statement to Sportsmail on Wednesday night, John vowed to ‘grow as a leader’ and insisted it was never her intention to make a colleague feel intimidated.

    John joined the FA in September 2020 and her influence has grown considerably since her appointment.

    She played a key role in delivering the FA’s historic Football Diversity Leadership Code in addition to a host of other projects aligned with the organisation’s focus on improving equality, diversity and inclusion.

    Her growing status within the FA is set to be underlined further in the coming weeks; John has played a lead role in preparing a presentation for England’s senior players ahead of the forthcoming international break on the important matter of Qatar’s human rights record ahead of the World Cup in November.

    The well-respected executive is also scheduled to travel to Qatar as part of the FA’s senior delegation for the World Cup draw next month.

    FA senior director Edleen John (pictured above) has been accused of bullying by a colleague

    The well-respected executive is scheduled to travel to Qatar as part of the FA’s senior delegation for the World Cup draw next month

    The well-respected executive is scheduled to travel to Qatar as part of the FA’s senior delegation for the World Cup draw next month

    John has led the organisation’s fight to ensure English football is more inclusive and culturally diverse and has had significant success in driving that change.

    However, she has found herself at the centre of a complaint that was initially made to the employee’s line manager but was then transferred to the organisation’s human resources division.

    At the time of the complaint being raised, the employee insisted it should not be treated as a formal grievance.

    Submitting a formal grievance may have opened up the possibility of official disciplinary action.

    The complaint has been dealt with in the strictest confidentiality inside the FA, who are understood to have offered guidance and advice to John.

    The informal letter cites a number of instances where the employee believes John has over stepped the mark.

    John, in the complaint, is accused of shouting, being dismissive, giving unjust criticism, using aggressive tactics and malicious behaviour.

    John joined the FA (pictured: Wembley Stadium) in September 2020 and her influence has grown considerably since her appointment

    John joined the FA (pictured: Wembley Stadium) in September 2020 and her influence has grown considerably since her appointment

    Sportsmail understands the complaint has made clear they do not wish to invoke any formal action against John, but has raised the issue amid concerns that if left unaddressed the situation could negatively impact the working environment at the FA.

    In a statement released to Sportsmail, John said: ‘At the heart of who I am, I’m an activist and am direct in my communication style.

    ‘As a senior Black woman joining the football-industry in the middle of a pandemic, I am honoured that The FA empowered me to try to be a change agent.

    ‘A challenge of driving change is that sometimes, I have to be uncomfortably direct. I ask the questions that no-one wants to ask. I have difficult conversations about topics that people haven’t engaged on for centuries and doing that can mean pushing boundaries and people.

    ‘Am I 100 per cent perfect in how I always deliver those messages? Far from it. Have I always got my tone completely right or pondered the depth of someone’s feelings when a bigger mission was at hand? Not always.

    John (centre) with England Women's players Nikita Harris (left) and Lucy Bronze (right) at St George's Park in 2021

    John (centre) with England Women’s players Nikita Harris (left) and Lucy Bronze (right) at St George’s Park in 2021 

    ‘Have I ever wanted anyone to feel intimidated? Absolutely not.

    ‘And do I hold myself accountable if I make mistakes or wake-up every day and strive to be better, like any other leader? Absolutely.

    ‘My intention is never to make anyone feel anything other than that we have a goal to achieve in driving towards collective positive change and better representation across our industry.

    ‘I have and always will listen to feedback and continue to grow daily as a leader and I hope that the leeway and scope that we as society afford strong, opinionated and vocal Black women continues to grow with me.’