Kick it Out and Women in Football have published statements condemning FA chairman Greg Clarke, who had to apologise for using the term “coloured” to describe BAME players. But there were further issues that Clarke’s comments raised surrounding diversity.
Greg Clarke Apologises for Using “Coloured” in Address to MPs
FA Chairman Raises Issue of Online Abuse
In a Department for Culture, Media and Sport select committee hearing, Clarke used the term after responding to Labour MP Alex Davies-Jones’ question marks over why there are few gay high-profile footballers.
“If I look at what happens to high-profile female footballers, high-profile coloured footballers and the abuse they take on social media … they take absolutely terrible abuse. Why would you voluntarily sign up for that kind of abuse. As soon as you put your hand up the dark corners of social media come for you.”
Clarke apologised at the time, prompted by Kevin Brennan, MP and DCMS committee member. He said that he sometimes trips over his words and “If I said it I deeply apologise for it.”
Greg Clarke on ‘Inclusivity’
The FA Chairman also made other remarks regarding diversity in football:
“BAME communities are not an amorphous mass,” Clarke said. “If you look at top level football the Afro-Caribbean community is overrepresented 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.
He then proposed a solution:
“So what we have to do is treat each individual on their merits, but make sure we are inclusive and have programmes that don’t cross the line into positive discrimination but encourage those communities to participate.”
Meanwhile, Clarke’s words again put him in hot water when discussing gay footballers coming out:
“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.”
Reaction to Greg Clarke’s Comments
Kick It Out Chairman Sanjay Bhandari published a statement slamming multiple comments made by Clarke at the DCMS hearing.
“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 His use of outdated language to describe Black and Asian people as ‘coloured’ is from decades ago and should remain consigned to the dustbin of history.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.”
Furthermore, Women in Football published their statement on Twitter:
The use of outdated stereotypes in football – whether about girls, people of different ethnicities and heritages, or about sexuality – is unacceptable. It does not reflect the football that we know and love, and it actively excludes people by seeking to generalise their unique experiences with a guess at what ‘people who look like them’ feel, experience and desire. At Women in Football, we work tirelessly to make sure that football is open and welcome to all. Our priority will always be to stand up for every girl, woman and non-binary person in football regardless of background, race, heritage, sexuality or ability. We stand shoulder to shoulder with other groups and communities who have been affected bg Mr Clarke’s comments.
In addition, there are other critics such as Times Sport Chief writer Henry Winter, ITV Sports Producer Dan Salisbury-Jones and the Athletic’s Matt Slater who described this moment as “Greg Clarke in a nutshell.”
Greg Clarke is under flak from all corners after his anachronistic comments; he is not expected, as the likes of Winter among others suggest, to remain as FA Chairman for long.