FA chairman Clarke quits after ‘coloured footballers’ remark

Greg Clarke has resigned as English Football Association chairman hours after referring to “coloured footballers” during questions from members of parliament on Tuesday. The 63-year-old was widely criticised after making a series of inappropriate comments while taking questions from members of the Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) select committee.

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

Former Leicester City chairman Clarke, 63, was appointed by the FA in 2016 since when the governing body has worked hard to improve its stuffy image and become more inclusive. However, Clarke’s outdated terminology on Tuesday led to outrage amongst anti-racism organisations and players.

“I was extremely disappointed to see Greg Clarke’s comments today in the DCMS select committee,” said Kick It Out chairman Sanjay Bhandari. “His use of outdated language to describe black and Asian people as “coloured” is from decades ago and should remain consigned to the dustbin of history.”

Clarke had been asked to attend the DCMS meeting remotely to discuss the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the delay in the Premier League’s financial rescue package for the English Football League (EFL). But when questions turned to diversity within the FA’s ranks he began to score verbal own goals at an alarming rate.

CLARKE APOLOGY

Asked about the difficulty gay players in the men’s game faced in ‘coming out’ in the social media age, 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.”

DCMS committee member Kevin Brennan MP later picked up Clarke on his choice of words. “If I said it I deeply regret it,” Clarke replied. “I am a product of working overseas, where I was required to use the phrase people of colour. Sometimes I trip over my words.”

The FA also issued a statement saying Clarke acknowledged that the term ‘coloured’ was not appropriate. Clarke was also criticised for other comments during the meeting. Talking about diversity within football, he said South Asians and Afro-Caribbean people had “different career interests”, and he used his own organisation as an example.

“BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) communities are not an amorphous mass,” he said. “If you look at top level football the Afro-Caribbean community is over-represented compared to the South Asian community.

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

Clarke also referred to gay players making a “life choice” — prompting further criticism. Labour MP Alex Davies-Jones, whose question provoked Clarke’s “coloured footballers” comment, said his terminology showed the “urgent progress” that is needed on equality.

“I can’t believe we’re still here in 2020,” she said.

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