FA chairman Greg Clarke quits after sparking racism row with ‘coloured footballers’ comment
Football Association chairman Greg Clarke has stepped down after attracting widespread criticism for referring to “coloured footballers”.
Clarke made the remarks during a gaffe-laden appearance before MPs at a select committee hearing this morning.
He attracted further derision for suggesting Asians and Afro-Caribbeans had “different career interests” and that homosexuality was “a life choice”.
Clarke said: “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.”
The 63-year-old former chief executive of Cable & Wireless had been FA chairman since 2016.
He joined from the English Football League, where he was also chairman from 2010 until 2016.
Last year, he was elected to be a vice-president of world governing body Fifa.
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. The FA Board will begin the process of identifying and appointing a new chair in due course.”
During the hearing, Clarke was invited to apologise for using the term “coloured” by committee member Kevin Brennan.
He responded: “If I said it I deeply apologise for it.”
An FA spokesperson later added: “Greg Clarke is deeply apologetic for the language he used to reference members of the ethnic minority community during the select committee hearing today.
“He acknowledged that using the term ‘coloured’ is not appropriate and wholeheartedly apologised during the hearing.”
Clarke criticised for ‘outdated language’
Addressing a lack of minorities in some sections of football, Clarke also told the hearing: “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.”
Of challenges facing homosexual footballers, he 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.”
Clarke’s series of comments attracted widespread criticism.
Sanjay Bhandari, chairman of anti-discrimination group Kick It Out, said he was “extremely disappointed”.
“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,” Bhandari added.
Stonewall director Maria Munir said: “The language we use matters, which is why it’s a shame that Greg Clarke used such harmful phrases like ‘life choice to describe being gay.”
Clarke plunges English football into chaos
Clarke had faced criticism in recent weeks over his involvement in plans to overhaul how English football is run.
Project Big Picture, as the proposals have been called, and the delay in a bailout for struggling lower league clubs were among the reasons for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport committee hearing.
His resignation throws English football into further chaos at a time when a number of key issues remain unresolved.
Those also include determining when fans can return to football stadiums and mass participation can resume at grassroots level.
Clarke survived previous appearances in front of MPs, despite also being widely criticised.
Last year he was questioned over why the FA did not intervene in Bury’s slide into financial ruin.
In 2017, Clarke was grilled over allegations of racism and bullying in the England Women’s team set-up.