FA chairman Greg Clarke has resigned after a disastrous parliamentary appearance in which he referred to ‘coloured footballers’ among a host of other offensive gaffes.
In giving evidence via video link to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, Clarke voiced several offensive stereotypes, claiming that South Asians and Afro-Caribbean people have ‘different career interests’ on the basis of the make-up of the FA’s IT department, as well as describing homosexuality as a ‘life choice’.
Clarke offered an apology soon afterwards after being prompted to do so by Kevin Brennan MP, which was later expanded on by an FA spokesperson.
But this was not enough to assuage the anger and embarrassment of staff at Wembley and he is understood to have resigned this afternoon.
The 63-year-old also offered a personal apology to the FA’s BAME staff.
In a statement, the FA said: ‘We can confirm that Greg Clarke has stepped down from his role as our chairman. 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.’
Clarke released his own statement apologising for the gaffes, adding: ‘I am deeply saddened that I have offended those diverse communities in football that I and others worked so hard to include.’
However, his full statement suggested that the events of the afternoon simply strengthened a desire he already had to move on.
It read: ‘As a person who loves football and has given decades of service to our game, it is right that I put the interests of football first.
‘2020 has been a challenging year and I have been actively considering standing down for some time to make way for a new Chair now our CEO transition is complete and excellent executive leadership under Mark Bullingham is established.
Clarke’s most shocking comments from today’s hearing
Football Association chairman Greg Clarke has come under fire for a series of comments he made at a committee hearing in front of a group of MPs on Tuesday.
Clarke appeared to pander to a series of racist and sexist stereotypes and also insinuated that being gay was a ‘life choice’ – although it is unclear whether he was referring to the decision to ‘come out’.
Here are some of the quotes which have caused a social media backlash – and already led, in part, to an embarrassing apology.
CLARKE ON RACE
‘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.’
CLARKE ON RACE II
‘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.’
CLARKE ON SEXUALITY
‘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.’
CLARKE ON WOMEN
‘I talked to a coach – and I’m not certain this is true – and said, ‘what’s the issue with goalkeepers in the women’s game?’ She said, ‘young girls, when they take up the game (aged) six, seven, eight, just don’t like having the ball kicked at them hard’, right? They prefer to kick it than have it kicked at them. We have to understand we need to look at different ways to bring women into the goalkeeper’s position.’
‘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.
‘I am deeply saddened that I have offended those diverse communities in football that I and others worked so hard to include.
‘I would like to thank my friends and colleagues in the game for the wisdom and counsel they have shared over the years and resign from the FA with immediate effect.
In one passage of his speech on Tuesday, Clarke said: ‘If I look at what happened to high-profile female footballers, high-profile coloured footballers.’
Clarke was asked by MP Kevin Brennan whether he wished to withdraw the use of the word ‘coloured’.
Brennan said: ‘Mr Clarke, diversity is not really the issue, is it? Football is diverse – it’s inclusion that’s the issue.
‘When you said something earlier on, I think I heard you refer to ‘coloured’ people – if that’s the case would you want to withdraw that language? Because isn’t that exactly the sort of language that means that inclusion is not a reality, even though football is very diverse and has many people in it from ethnic minority backgrounds and also people who are gay?’
Clarke responded: ‘If I said it, I deeply apologise. 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’ because that was a product of their diversity legislation, positive discrimination format, so sometimes I trip over my words and I deeply apologise.’
But Clarke’s language on other topics during Tuesday’s appearance before MPs also caused discomfort.
He said: ‘If you look at top level football, the Afro-Caribbean communities are over-represented versus the South Asian community,’ Clarke said. ‘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,’ he added, while also claiming that a coach once told him that young girls ‘don’t like the ball kicked at them hard’.
On the topic of gay players in football, Clarke said: ‘Anyone who runs out onto the pitch and on Monday says ‘I am gay, I am proud of it and I am happy and it’s a life choice and I have made it and my life is a better place because I have disclosed it’… I do believe they would have the support of their mates in the changing room.’
It is unclear if Clarke was referring to ‘a life choice’ over being gay or coming out.
His comments immediately drew fire on social media.
Clarke has been criticised before for the language that he has used when discussing racism
The Football Association promptly offered an apology for Clarke’s use of the word ‘coloured’
Julian Knight, the chair of the DCMS Committee, was clearly unimpressed by Clarke’s words
Clarke was slammed by footballers including including the former Aston Villa striker Gabriel Agbonlahor, Anton Ferdinand and Stan Collymore, who called his comments ‘flat out racial profiling’
Clarke appeared to pander to a series of racist and sexist stereotypes and also insinuated that being gay was a ‘life choice’ – although it is unclear whether he was referring to the decision to ‘come out’
Kick It Out responded with a damning statement after the interview emerged, branding the comments ‘lazy stereotypes’ and ‘casual sexism’ that represent ‘a big step backwards’ after other commendable work from the FA.
Clarke was also slammed by footballers including including the former Aston Villa striker Gabriel Agbonlahor, Anton Ferdinand and Stan Collymore, who called his comments ‘flat out racial profiling’.
Agbonlahor said: ‘So the FA chairman now calls us coloured footballers. How will racism end with people like him at the top?’
A timeline of Greg Clarke’s reign as FA boss before his resignation for crass comments on race and sexuality
September 4 2016 – Two months after his nomination he starts in his role as FA chairman, replacing Greg Dyke.
September 27 2016 – Less than a month into the job, he sacks England manager Sam Allardyce after only one game in charge following comments he made in an undercover newspaper sting.
October 16 2017 – He comes under scrutiny for his role in the governing body’s handling of Eni Aluko’s claim of racism against national women’s team manager Mark Sampson, who was eventually sacked. He later admits that his organisation has ‘lost the trust of the public’.
September 27 2018 – He backs the plan to sell Wembley Stadium to Fulham owner Shahid Khan in order to raise finances, a deal that eventually fell through.
October 14 2019 – He leads calls for stricter punishments from UEFA after England’s black players suffer vile racist abuse during a Euro 2020 qualifier in Bulgaria.
October 19 2020 – He is heavily criticised for being involved in talks regarding Project Big Picture – a movement designed to change the landscape of English football.
November 10 2020 – Clarke apologises and then later resigns after using the word ‘coloured’ in an answer he gave to MPs at a committee hearing. He also appeared to pander to a series of racist and sexist stereotypes, as well as insinuating that being gay was a ‘life choice’ – although it is unclear whether he was referring to the decision to ‘come out’.
Former Nottingham Forest, Liverpool and England striker Stan Collymore wrote: ‘This is flat out racial profiling, is dangerous and if the FA don’t comment or act, they are complicit.
‘Seeing so many particularly white men commenting, ‘he’s nice, he’s just old, his heart is in the right place’, is why racism is moving forward, not in retreat. Always an excuse for it.’
Anton Ferdinand also criticised Clarke, tweeting: ‘I appreciate that the FA are doing some good work with their diversity campaign but it’s important the chairman Greg Clarke knows using the term ‘coloured footballers’ to reference people of ethnicity is unacceptable!!!! Clearly education is needed at all levels.’
Maria Munir, from LGBT charity Stonewall, called the comments ‘harmful’.
‘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,’ they said.
‘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.
‘We hope Greg Clarke and the FA will swiftly apologise for his comments – like they did for the words he used to refer to Black and Asian players today.’
Julian Knight, the chair of the DCMS Committee, said in response on Twitter: ‘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.’
Kick It Out executive chair Sanjay Bhandari also condemned Clarke’s remarks, saying: ‘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 too. 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.’
The FA released a statement after Clarke’s appearance saying: ‘Greg Clarke is deeply apologetic for the language he used to reference members of the ethnic minority community during the select committee hearing.
‘He acknowledged that using the term ‘coloured’ is not appropriate and wholeheartedly apologised during the hearing.’
The governing body’s BAME staff are understood to have been horrified by the chairman’s comments, particularly given they come just two weeks after the FA launched a new Diversity Code featuring specific recruitment targets for all clubs, and they have the sympathy of many colleagues from all backgrounds.
‘There will be momentum for him to go,’ an FA insider told Sportsmail.
His resignation was later confirmed by the FA.
Clarke also faced pressure from the Premier League and the EFL, who have clashed with him over a number of issues lately including the impact of Brexit and the fall-out from the controversial Project Big Picture reform proposals for the top flight.
The 63-year-old’s role in those clandestine negotiations has angered many clubs and the EFL, while his position is not helped by the fact that he has made similar race-related gaffes in the past.
At a previous session of the DCMS select committee in 2017 into the FA’s handling of the Eni Aluko/Mark Sampson affair, Clarke infamously described institutional racism as ‘fluff’.
Who is Greg Clarke? Ex-FTSE 100 chairman who once described claims of institutional racism as ‘fluff’
Greg Clarke was born in Leicester in 1957 and is married with four adult children.
Prior to entering football, he served as chief executive of the Cable & Wireless Communications, a FTSE 100 firm, before working with a series of other major businesses.
From 2010 to 2016, Clarke was chairman of the English Football League, before being appointed chairman of the FA in September 2016.
He is known for his controversial comments, including infamously describing claims of institutional racism as ‘fluff’ in front of a Parliamentary committee.
Clarke was also slammed by a victim of the paedophile football coach Barry Bennell after he accused the FA chairman of comparing him to a ‘crying baby’ in Parliament.
While FA chairman, he led the organisation’s response to allegations of historical sexual abuse in football and was quizzed by MPs in 2017 about his work.
During his testimony to MPs, Clarke controversially attacked the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) for ‘walking away’ from abuse victims, and spoke of an abuse survivor ‘crying like a baby’ after it refused money for counselling.
Andy Woodward, who was abused by coach Barry Bennell at Crewe from the age of 11 to 15, believed Clarke was referring to him.
‘I certainly wasn’t crying like a baby and I feel humiliated by the words that he used,’ he said. ‘I feel extremely hurt. I didn’t feel it was appropriate to use those words about me from a very confidential meeting at Wembley last year. That deeply upset me.
‘I understand that he’s under a lot of pressure at the moment, but I’ve had several people that have contacted me directly saying that they feel really sorry for me. They instantly knew that it was me he was referring to.’
Prior to working at the FA he had also been a director and chairman of Leicester City FC.
‘Language that belongs in the dustbin of history’: Kick It Out’s statement on Clarke
Sanjay Bhandari, Executive Chair at Kick It Out, says: ‘I was extremely disappointed to see Greg Clarke’s comments today in the DCMS Select Committee. 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 too. 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.
Kick It Out executive chairman Sanjay Bhandari said he was ‘extremely disappointed’ with Clarke’s comments to the DCMS Select Committee
‘I was particularly concerned by the use of lazy racist stereotypes about South Asians and their supposed career preferences. It reflects similar lazy stereotypes I have heard has been spouted at club academy level.
‘That kind of attitude may well partially explain why South Asians are statistically the most under-represented ethnic minority on the pitch. We will be talking about this more later this week when we discuss some research to be released on Thursday.
‘Football needs to step up and address this lack of representation of South Asians on the pitch – there has been virtually no progress in 40 years. My experience as a South Asian is that we do not have different career aspirations, but we have different outcomes.
‘Talent is evenly distributed, but opportunity is not. The football bodies need to focus on spreading that opportunity evenly and removing the kind of systemic bias that these lazy stereotypes reflect.
‘I have seen the good work that the FA have been doing to create a more inclusive game, not least in the Diversity in Football Leadership Code. The FA has rightly been applauded for leading that effort.
‘But these comments indicate that more still needs to be done to challenge attitudes. For all the steps made forward recently, the comments expressed today are a big step backwards.’