Football Association (FA) chairman Greg Clarke has conceded that the governing body has suffered a loss of public trust following its handling of discrimination claims made against axed England Women’s manager Mark Sampson.
In a speech to the FA Council’s autumn meeting at Wembley on Thursday, Clarke promised radical change in response to the storm engulfing the organisation after its mismanagement of allegations was exposed and highlighted.
The FA was described as “shambolic” during last week’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) select committee hearing, while an independent barrister ruled that Sampson had made unacceptable comments to England striker Eniola Aluko and team-mate Drew Spence.
“We failed. What the last few weeks have exposed is how out of step we are,” said Clarke, who was the chairman of the Football League between 2010 and 2016.
“A storm has blown through us and we have struggled to cope. It has stripped us of our veneer and exposed some deeper fundamental truths about why the FA’s successes are taken for granted but its failures leapt upon.
“Let me be clear why this is a problem. We have lost the trust of the public, the trust of the football participating community and the trust of those domestic and international partners we need to do our job.
“This is not my assertion, the evidence is there. Our own insight tracking shows that only 27 per cent of football fans think we are competent and even less, 24 per cent, have a positive perception of the FA. We do need that trust – it is the bedrock of everything we should be about.”
Clarke proceeded to promise the FA would carry out a top to bottom cultural review of the national football centre at St George’s Park in a bid to improve inclusivity and the collective care of players.
“This is not going to be some grand commission,” added Clarke. “This is going to be the FA doing what it has failed to do in the past and getting its own house in order, asking itself some fundamental questions to ensure it can be the best organisation it can be.”
Damian Collins MP, who chairs the DCMS select committee, has welcomed the governing body’s commitment to transformational change, but insisted the FA chiefs – Clarke, Martin Glenn, Dan Ashworth and Rachel Brace – who attended the parliamentary inquiry should consider resigning.
“The lack of trust in the FA has developed because too often when it is faced with inconvenient truths it gives the impression of being more concerned with trying to protect itself, than properly investigating and addressing the problem,” said Clarke.
“When confronted with failings with its processes its first response too often is to dismiss criticism. In this regard, change isn’t just needed throughout the organisation, change needs to start at the top.”