NWSL GK coach fired for player fraternization


The Houston Dash have fired former goalkeeper coach Matt Lampson, an NWSL spokesperson has said, following an investigation into allegations that he had “[crossed] professional boundaries with a Dash player,” which violates multiple league policies.

Lampson has been suspended from future employment in the NWSL through the end of the 2024 season “due to these violations and a lack of full cooperation” with the investigation, the spokesperson added.

The investigation was conducted by a third-party attorney engaged jointly by the NWSL and the Houston Dash.

“The investigator determined that Lampson violated the NWSL Anti-Fraternization Policy and NWSL Coach Code of Conduct which require coaches to maintain strict adherence to professional boundaries but did not find a violation of the NWSL Anti-Harassment Policy which is focused on preventing abusive, discriminatory, or harassing behavior,” an NWSL spokesperson said in a statement to ESPN.

The Equalizer was first to report Lampson’s alleged relationship with a player and subsequent termination.

Lampson was placed on administrative leave throughout the investigation after “third-party reports of Lampson crossing professional boundaries with a Dash player,” the NWSL confirmed.

Multiple sources told ESPN that Lampson’s administrative leave began in January. Lampson was fired on Monday and players were informed the same day, a source confirmed to ESPN.

The news comes in the wake of the NWSL’s ongoing reform following recent year-long investigations that uncovered systemic abuse in the league.

Paul Riley, who was a head coach for multiple NWSL teams in the league’s first decade, was fired in 2021 following allegations by former players of sexual coercion and harassment.

Subsequent allegations against other coaches, ranging from sexual assault to harassment, led to the permanent ban of Riley and three other coaches from the NWSL.

Several other coaches were sanctioned following the pair of investigations that ran throughout 2022, one conducted by the league in conjunction with its players association and the other conducted by former U.S. attorney general Sally Yates on behalf of U.S. Soccer.

The investigations also uncovered alleged enablement of abuse by those in power, including by some team owners, and ultimately forced the recent sales of the Chicago Red Stars and Portland Thorns FC to new ownership groups.

“Our investigation has revealed a league in which abuse and misconduct — verbal and emotional abuse and sexual misconduct — had become systemic, spanning multiple teams, coaches, and victims,” the summary of the Yates investigation’s findings said.

“Abuse in the NWSL is rooted in a deeper culture in women’s soccer, beginning in youth leagues, that normalizes verbally abusive coaching and blurs boundaries between coaches and players.”

Neither the NWSL’s anti-fraternization policy nor its coach code of conduct are publicly available.

The league’s anti-harassment policy is posted publicly and defines a “power imbalance” that could exist in a relationship between players and coaches. It reads: “Any romantic or sexual interaction between a player (or trialist) and an individual with supervisory authority (direct or indirect) involves a Power Imbalance and may be exploitative, impair judgment, and/or create an actual, potential, or perceived conflict of interest.”

Since the league-wide investigations were completed in late 2022, the NWSL has instilled new reporting policies for possible violations or complaints, including a RealResponse Hotline for players to text anonymously and an email for a league human resources manager.

“When we encountered some of our history and the challenges of the past we learned that there was no playbook in terms of how to create a best-in-class league in the policies, protocols, and procedures that are offered to technical staff,” NWSL commissioner Jessica Berman told a news conference in January.

“We believe we’re setting the standard, and we continue to create an open-source playbook so other leagues, both men’s and women’s, can learn from our experience and we can help our entire industry and ecosystem be the best it can be.”

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