Greg Clarke: English FA Chairman Resigns over Racial comment

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The chairman of the English Football Association, Greg Clarke, has resigned for referring to players from other races as “high-profile colored footballers” while in a meeting with Members of Parliament today, November 10. The FA Chairman who stepped down today apologized for sometimes tripping over his words.

While speaking at the Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport (DCMS) Committee meeting earlier today (Tuesday, November 10), Greg Clarke attempted to justify why it has been difficult for gay footballers to come out publicly as gays. In his attempt, he told the committee that gay footballers are scared of facing the discrimination the Black, Asian, and minority ethnic (BAME) footballers are facing especially on social media.

“If I look at what happens to high-profile female footballers, to high-profile colored footballers, and the abuse they take on social media… social media is a free-for-all”, Greg Clarke said.

The fact that he referred to BAME players as colored footballers was taken as a racial comment which the chairman of the Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport Committee first noted and questioned. Minutes later, a member of the committee, Kevin Brennan MP asked the embattled football administrator whether he wished to withdraw the comment.

In his response, Greg Clarke said: “If I said it, I deeply apologize for it. 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 color’ sometimes because that was the product of their diversity legislation and positive discrimination format. Sometimes I trip over my words.”

Minutes after the meeting, the English FA announced via Twitter that the 63-year-old football administrator has apologized for his racial comment.

“Greg Clarke is deeply apologetic for the language he used to reference members of the ethnic minority community during the select committee hearing today”, the FA tweeted.

“He acknowledged that using the term ‘colored’ is not appropriate and wholeheartedly apologized during the hearing.”

The fact that Greg Clarke called BAME players “colored” was not the only racial comment he made at the meeting which did not go down well with the MPs. He talked about ‘differing career interests’ between people from south Asian and African-Caribbean backgrounds and how one race is overpopulated in one field than the others.

“I was talking to the chair of a county FA from the west country. He has tried to now make sure he has representation within diverse communities,” Clarke said.

“(He told me) ‘I’m over-committed with South Asians, I’m not getting enough people from Afro-Caribbean backgrounds’.

“The BAME communities aren’t an amorphous mass. If you look at top-level football, the Afro-Caribbean community is over-represented versus the South Asian community.

“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.”

Hours after the meeting and apologizing for his racial comments, Greg Clarke issued a statement announcing that he has resigned as the chairman of the FA after four years of serving in that capacity (2016-2020).

Greg Clarke
Former FA Chairman Greg Clarke

His statement 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.

“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 crystallized 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.”