Football Association boss resigns after referring to ‘coloured footballers’ and claiming being gay is a ‘life choice’
The chair of England’s Football Association, Greg Clarke, has resigned after referring to ‘coloured footballers’ and saying being gay is a ‘life choice’ in front of parliament.
Clarke was, until yesterday, the chair of the Football Association (FA), which governs association football in England, Jersey, Guernsey, and the Isle of Man.
On Tuesday (10 November), Clarke attended a parliamentary hearing with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport via video call.
But when answering questions from MPs on diversity in English football, he made a series of offensive and outdated comments about Black people, South Asian people, gay people and women.
Discussing online abuse, Clarke told MPs: “If I look at what happens to high-profile female footballers, high-profile coloured footballers and the abuse they take on social media… social media is a free for all, and people can see if you’re Black, and if they don’t like Black people because they’re filthy racists, they will abuse you anonymously online.”
Immediately after his comments, he was asked by the committee whether he would like to apologise for his use of the term “coloured”.
Clarke said he “deeply apologised” but insisted he has “worked overseas” and added: “Sometimes I trip over my words.”
But his comments about race were not over.
Asked about the lack of Asian footballers in English football, Clarke insisted that compared to “Afro-Caribbean communities”, “South Asians… have different career interests”, and were more likely to work in “the IT department at the FA”.
Discussing why there are zero openly LGBT+ elite football players in England, Clarke went on to describe being gay as a “life choice”.
He said: “What I would want to do is to know that anybody who runs out onto the pitch and says on Monday, ‘I’m gay and I’m proud of it and I’m happy and it’s a life choice’… they would have the support of their mates in the changing room.”
Clarke also claimed that “the women’s game is different” because “girls… just don’t like having the ball kicked at them hard”.
Lou Englefield, director of the international campaign Football v Homophobia, said in a statement responding to Clarke’s comments: “The idea that being gay is a life choice is an outdated concept that many people will find deeply offensive.
“There are some people who will use a statement like this from the FA chairman as a way to prop up their homophobia.
“We are deeply disappointed that the FA has expressed this opinion alongside sexist opinions about girls and the use of racist language and stereotypes.”
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Former FA chair David Bernstein told The Daily Telegraph that Clarke’s comments “really do support the thesis that the Football Association is just not up-to-date”.
Bernstein, who is campaigning for an independent football regulator in England, added: “It’s not in touch and what has happened is symptomatic of the need for urgent change both at the Football Association and within the wider game.
“Frankly, there couldn’t be a stronger case for our arguments than what’s happened today.”
On the same day as the parliamentary hearing, Greg Clarke handed in his resignation.
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He said in a statement: “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.
“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.”