The Football Association is beginning its search for a new chairman following the resignation of Greg Clarke over ‘harmful, archaic’ and ‘deeply offensive’ remarks.
Peter McCormick, chairman of the FA’s professional game board, has been named as interim chairman after Clarke stepped down amid a storm of criticism.
The 63-year-old apologised after he used the word ‘coloured’ to describe black players and insinuated that being gay was a ‘life choice’.
His comments, over a video link before a Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee, were branded ‘harmful’, ‘archaic’ and ‘deeply offensive’ by a host of anti-discrimination groups.
Clarke was also condemned for saying that black and South Asian people had ‘different career interests’ from each other, and drew complaints for saying a women’s coach had told him that the lack of women’s goalkeepers was due to girls not liking the ball being kicked at them.
The FA announced Clarke’s resignation early on Tuesday evening and Kick It Out chair Sanjay Bhandari welcomed the swift action taken.
Bhandari said on Sky Sports News: ‘We are not just talking about anybody here, we are talking about the leader of our national game on a really major strategic issue for the FA, which is driving greater diversity and inclusion, making everyone feel they belong in the game.
‘These were archaic attitudes which were really revealing themselves in comment after comment – a well-briefed chair or CEO would know exactly how to navigate that.
‘It is not as if this is the first time, there have been previous incidents – like referring to institutional racism as “fluff”.
‘What it shows is there is an attitude underlying which is really not the right attitude to be leading the English game.’
The FA finds itself embroiled in new controversy just two weeks after it launched a new diversity code, which aims to ensure more candidates from ethnic minorities can land top jobs.
In 2017, former England forward Lianne Sanderson gave evidence alongside Eniola Aluko at a parliamentary inquiry into allegations of racism within the game during which Clarke was criticised for describing the accusations as ‘fluff’.
Sanderson believes Tuesday’s developments show how much work there is still to be done on the drive for equality.
‘I often question how these people get into these positions in the first place, and then we wonder why racism and homophobia is on the rise,’ Sanderson told Sky Sports News.
In announcing Clarke’s departure, the FA said: ‘We would also like to reaffirm that as an organisation, we are absolutely committed to doing everything we can to promote diversity, address inequality, and tackle all forms of discrimination in the game.’
The FA is yet to set out the process for the appointment of his successor, but the preferred candidate would need to be approved by the FA Council.
Clarke is also one of three Fifa vice-presidents representing Uefa and reports on Tuesday night suggested he will step away from that role too.
Sports minister Nigel Huddleston wrote on Twitter: ‘Greg Clarke’s comments in front of today’s DCMS Select Committee have caused deep offence and were completely unacceptable. I acknowledge his decades of service to football and his apology, but he was right to stand down as chairman of the FA.
‘We must ensure that opportunities are open to everyone in the sports sector – from athletes to board members – and all forms of discrimination must be tackled head on. I will continue to work with the FA and other bodies to ensure our national game positively leads by example.’
Equality campaigners Stonewall UK said: ‘The language we use matters, which is why it’s a shame Greg Clarke used such a harmful phrase like “life choice” to describe being gay.
‘It was also deeply upsetting to hear the archaic words and stereotypes he used to describe black and Asian people, along with sexist stereotypes about players from the women’s game.’
‘There are some people who will use a statement like this from the FA chairman as a way to prop up their homophobia.’
Former DCMS committee chair Damian Collins hopes Clarke’s resignation will bring about some much-needed change at the governing body.
Collins said on Twitter: ‘Greg Clarke’s departure as FA chairman should be a moment for fundamental reform of the governance of football in England.
‘We need a body that shows real leadership on player development and welfare, fan engagement, inclusion and financial sustainability.’
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