More than 40 people interviewed by FA inquiry into Maddy Cusack’s death

The Football Association has interviewed more than 40 people in its investigation into the circumstances surrounding Maddy Cusack’s death and her family’s complaints about her former manager at Sheffield United, Jonathan Morgan.

Midfielder Cusack, 27, took her own life last September, leading to her family putting together a seven-page complaint about her last seven months at the Yorkshire club — coinciding with the appointment of Morgan as their women’s team manager in the February.

The family’s complaint, stretching to more than 3,350 words, led to English football’s governing body opening an investigation in January this year to examine the alleged issues between Cusack and Morgan in Sheffield and, before that, when they were player and manager at Leicester City from 2018-19.

As well as interviewing former team-mates of Cusack’s at both those clubs, the FA’s investigation team has spoken to players at Burnley — where Morgan managed the women’s team after leaving Leicester in November 2021 and before joining Sheffield United. A significant number of players and staff from all three clubs have volunteered to take part in the inquiry.

Morgan has always denied any wrongdoing and was cleared by an independent inquiry, commissioned by Sheffield United, that concluded in December with their chief executive, Stephen Bettis, writing to Cusack’s family to confirm no disciplinary action was being taken.

Morgan’s account was that he had tried to be a positive influence in Cusack’s life and that it was completely unfounded to suggest their working relationship had contributed to her emotional anguish and, ultimately, death. He says he has been the victim of a “witch hunt”.

In a letter to the family, Bettis stated that none of the people interviewed for the club-commissioned inquiry had “heard or witnessed any bullying or inappropriate behaviour” towards Cusack, or any other player. Bettis did, however, acknowledge that Morgan’s behaviour “divided opinion” among the people interviewed. Some found him supportive and caring. Others described his style of management as “isolating some players, quite authoritative and intimidating”.

Cusack’s family say that was her experience with Morgan, and that it damaged her mental health at a time when the former England Under-19 international was working at Sheffield United as a marketing executive as well as being the club’s longest-serving player. Her parents, David and Deborah, have supplied the FA with the text messages in which she discusses Morgan being her manager.

Maddy Cusack runs out at Bramall Lane in October 2022 (Cameron Smith/The FA via Getty Images )

Morgan lost his job in February after a former Leicester player, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Athletic she had a secret relationship with him for almost three years while he was her manager at the Midlands club, and that she felt like he had taken advantage of his position. He was then in his late twenties while the player in question said she was 17 when the relationship started and described herself as naive and immature for her age.

Morgan, now 35, admits the relationship took place and says it is true he kept it from the other Leicester players. His account is that she was 18 when it started and that, though he knew it was ethically wrong, manager-player relationships were common in women’s football, especially at that time.

David Matthews, the FA’s senior integrity investigations manager, has been appointed to oversee the interview and evidence-gathering process in the Cusack case. That remains ongoing and the final report is expected to be published later this year. The FA is keeping the family and Sheffield United regularly updated.

Morgan has previously denied any wrongdoing relating to two previous complaints at Leicester, the first of which was about his managerial conduct and ended with the complainant involved, a first-team player, receiving a financial settlement in February 2019, in relation to her contract.

The second investigation, in May 2021, was instigated after an anonymous letter of complaint was sent to Leicester’s board members, as well as the FA, citing a wide-ranging number of alleged dressing-room issues. Players were asked about claims that Morgan publicly discussed his sexual exploits and had used a highly derogatory term to describe a member of his team. The investigation cleared Morgan, who called the allegations wholly untrue. He was not sanctioned, and resumed work.

Another complaint was made against Morgan by a Sheffield United player who is understood to have received, or at least been offered, a financial settlement by the club. Again, he denies any wrongdoing.

The FA is aware of the complainants’ names and they have been asked to give evidence in the ongoing investigation.

The governing body has also been given access to the investigation that was carried out on Sheffield United’s behalf by Dennis Shotton, a retired detective superintendent from Northumbria Police now working for Safecall, a Sunderland-based company specialising in whistleblowing disputes.

To the Cusacks’ dismay, they were never allowed to see Shotton’s final report.

In his correspondence with the family, he misspelt Maddy’s first and second names, introducing her as “Madeline Cussack” rather than the correct spelling of Madeleine, as well as getting other names mixed up and making several other basic errors.

Shotton interviewed David Cusack for a witness statement but did not record what was said and then twice referred to him in his write-up as a club employee rather than Maddy’s father.

(Top photo: Tim Markland/PA Images via Getty Images)

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