Greg Clarke has resigned as chairman of the English Football Association after making a series of controversial statements to a parliamentary committee that provoked outrage.
Clarke was forced to apologise after he used the word “coloured” when referring to Black players as he addressed the United Kingdom’s Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport Committee (DCMS) about diversity issues on Tuesday.
The 63-year-old, who is a vice-president of world governing body FIFA, also attracted criticism for suggesting that England’s lack of professional players from a South Asian background was due to “different career interests”, comparing the situation to the IT department at the FA.
Clarke also described being gay as a “life choice” when quizzed over the lack of openly gay male players in England and said that young girls were often put off playing the game because they did not want to be hit hard by footballs.
“We can confirm that Greg Clarke has stepped down from his role as our chairman,” the FA said in a statement later on Tuesday.
“We would 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.”
Clarke admitted his statements were unacceptable as the FA aims to become a more diverse organisation.
“My unacceptable words in front of parliament were a disservice to our game and to those who watch, play, referee and administer it. This has crystallised my resolve to move on,” Clarke said in a statement.
“I am deeply saddened that I have offended those diverse communities in football that I and others worked so hard to include.”
‘Lazy racist stereotypes’
The FA confirmed Peter McCormick will step into the role as interim chairman with the process of identifying and appointing a new chair to come in due course.
Conservative member of parliament Julian Knight, who chairs the DCMS committee, questioned the FA’s commitment to diversity.
“It’s right that Greg Clarke apologised before the committee,” he tweeted. “However, this isn’t the first time that the @FA has come to grief over these issues.”
It’s right that Greg Clarke apologised before the Committee, however, this isn’t the first time that the @FA has come to grief over these issues.
It makes us question their commitment to diversity https://t.co/GadEG3Fibu
— Julian Knight MP (@julianknight15) November 10, 2020
When asked by another member of the committee, Kevin Brennan, about whether he wished to withdraw the use of the word “coloured” in one of his earlier answers, Clarke apologised and said the American use of the phrase “people of colour” was the reason for his mistake.
Anti-discrimination organisation Kick It Out accused Clarke of peddling “lazy racist stereotypes”.
Sanjay Bhandari, Kick It Out executive chair, said: “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.
“Being gay is not a ‘life choice’ as he claimed. The casual sexism of saying ‘girls’ do not like balls hit at them hard is staggering from anyone, let alone the leader of our national game. It is completely unacceptable.”
Bhandari said he was particularly concerned by “the use of lazy racist stereotypes” about South Asian people and their supposed career preferences.
“That kind of attitude may well partially explain why South Asians are statistically the most underrepresented ethnic minority on the pitch.”
England defender Tyrone Mings said people across the country would have been angered by Clarke’s words.
“Football is such a diverse community that we have to be aware of what is appropriate for one another and we have to be careful and mindful of the terminology which we use,” the Aston Villa centre-back said at an England media day.
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.
Former West Ham player Anton Ferdinand posted on Twitter that Clarke’s language was unacceptable, adding “clearly education is needed at all levels”.
On Monday, the FA gave an update on its three-year equality, diversity and inclusion strategy, launched in 2018.
“In Pursuit of Progress” aims to promote equality and increase the diversity of those playing, officiating, coaching, leading and governing English football.