Staggering Out-of-Touch Comments by British Sports Official Lead to Resignation

Friday November 13, 2020

Greg Clarke
Greg Clarke  (Source:FA)

An official in charge of England's soccer teams spoke to Parliament on Tuesday, and was out of his job on Wednesday. And the reason sounded like something out of "Saturday Night Live."

Greg Clarke was the head of the the Football Association (FA), which governs association football in England, Jersey, Guernsey, and the Isle of Man. He appeared "via Zoom at the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee to answer questions as to why there had been a lack of progress in securing a financial rescue package for English football," writes ESPN.

"But when answering questions from MPs on diversity in English football, he made a series of offensive and outdated comments about Black people, South Asian people, gay people and women," reports Pink News.

Asked about online abuse, Clarke said: "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."

Parliament member Cardiff West MP Kevin Brennan pressed Clarke about his use of the term "coloured." "When you said something earlier on, I think I heard you refer to 'coloured people' -- if that's the case, would you want to withdraw that language? Because isn't that exactly the sort of language that means that inclusion is not a reality even though football is very diverse and has many people in it from ethnic minority backgrounds and also people who are gay."

Clarke responded: "One, if I said it, I deeply apologise 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 colour' because that was the product of their diversity legislation and positive discrimination format. Sometimes I trip over my words and I deeply apologise."

A screenshot from the FA's video about diversity.

But his clueless comments didn't end there. When pressed on the lack of Asian players in English soccer, he said that compared to "Afro-Caribbean communities", he replied: "South Asians... have different career interests", and were more likely to work in "the IT department at the FA."

Women didn't fare much better in his offensive word soup: "Clarke also claimed that "the women's game is different" because "girls... just don't like having the ball kicked at them hard."

He expressed support to LGBTQ players, but with a poor word choice. "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."

"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,'" writes Pink News.

He posted his statement on Instagram:

"There are some people who will use a statement like this from the FA chairman as a way to prop up their homophobia," Englefield's statement continued.

"We are deeply disappointed that the FA has expressed this opinion alongside sexist opinions about girls and the use of racist language and stereotypes."

For his part, sources told ESPN "that the 63-year-old spoke to several members of the FA board for their backing but failed to garner sufficient support, which led to his resignation announcement just after 5 p.m. Peter McCormick was placed in interim charge."

Clarke said in a statement: "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."

This comes just weeks after the Football Association released a highly praised video promoting diversity within the sport.

Watch this report from Britain's ITV about Clarke's comments:

Watch the FA Association's video on diversity:

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