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FA chairman Greg Clarke quits after ‘unacceptable’ remarks

Written by on 10 November 2020

The chairman of the Football Association has resigned after using the term “coloured” to describe footballers from different ethnic backgrounds.

Greg Clarke was also criticised after saying people from South Asian and African-Caribbean backgrounds had “different career interests” from each other.

And he drew complaints for saying a coach had told him the lack of women’s goalkeepers was due to girls not liking the ball being kicked at them.

In a statement, the FA said: “We can confirm that Greg Clarke has stepped down from his role as our chairman.

Image:
Mr Clarke earlier apologised, saying: ‘Sometimes I trip over my words’

“Peter McCormick will step into the role as interim FA chairman with immediate effect and the FA Board will begin the process of identifying and appointing a new chair in due course.”

Mr Clarke admitted his comments in front of MPs were “unacceptable” and “a disservice to our game”, adding: “I am deeply saddened that I have offended those diverse communities in football that I and others worked so hard to include.”

He earlier apologised for using the term “coloured” while appearing at a select committee hearing.

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In his controversial remarks, Mr Clarke said: “If I look at what happens to high-profile female footballers, to high-profile coloured footballers, and the abuse they take on social media… social media is a free-for-all.”

A few minutes later, Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee member Kevin Brennan MP asked Mr Clarke if he wished to withdraw the use of the word “coloured”.

“If I said it, I deeply apologise for it,” Mr Clarke replied.

“Secondly, I am a product of having worked overseas, I worked in the USA for many years, where I was required to use the term ‘people of colour’ sometimes because that was the product of their diversity legislation and positive discrimination format. Sometimes I trip over my words.”

He was also criticised for referencing “differing career interests” between people from South Asian and African-Caribbean backgrounds after being asked what the FA was doing to improve diversity within the governing body.

FA chairman Greg Clarke claims bid to increase diversity on its board was blocked

FA chairman Greg Clarke claims bid to increase diversity on its board was blocked

“I was talking to the chair of a county FA from the west country. He has tried to now make sure he has representation within diverse communities,” he said.

“(He told me) ‘I’m over-committed with South Asians, I’m not getting enough people from Afro-Caribbean backgrounds’.

“The BAME communities aren’t an amorphous mass. If you look at top-level football, the Afro-Caribbean community is over-represented versus the South Asian community.

“If you go to the IT department at the FA, there’s a lot more South Asians than there are Afro-Caribbeans. They have different career interests.”

Mr Clarke later discussed the likely reaction within football if a male professional player came out publicly as gay.

In doing so, he used the phrase “life choice”, although it was unclear whether he was referring to sexuality itself or the decision to come out in itself.

“The real issue is once you run out in front of 60,000 people and you decided on Monday that you wanted to disclose your sexuality – and I would never pressure anybody to disclose their sexuality – what I would want to do is to know that anybody who runs out onto the pitch and says, ‘I’m gay. I’m proud of it and I’m happy. It’s a life choice, and I’ve made it because my life is a better place’, I’d like to believe and I do believe they would have the support of their mates in the changing room,” he said.

“I believe we have things in place so that anybody who misbehaves in terms of homophobic or misogynistic or racist abuse, we will find them and we will ban them from football, we have the power.”

In an interview with Sky Sports News after the apology, the chairman of the DCMS select committee, Julian Knight MP, questioned whether Mr Clarke was the right man to lead the FA.

He said: “The question is really, is someone like Mr Clarke who uses such unfortunate phrases and has used unfortunate phrases in the past and has shown to flounder over some of these issues, whether or not he really is the right person to carry the FA forwards when it has all these issues to deal with.

“If someone apologises and it’s heartfelt, I do believe that in life you need to accept that apology and move on.

“However, you can’t ignore the issue that the Football Association has highlighted on our select committee in the past, from the evidence of Eni Aluko, [it] has form in this area and has let large parts of the football community down I think over many years.

“It’s now seemingly improving. A lot of that good and that good communication was outdone with the use of that phraseology and one has to wonder whether or not frankly he is the correct person in terms of at least communicating the mission of the FA.”

Mr Clarke had also been criticised over the comments by anti-discrimination organisation Kick It Out, Stonewall – a group that campaigns for equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people – and footballers including Anton Ferdinand.