Kick It Out chief blasts Greg Clarke's 'litany of absurd stereotypes'

Kick It Out chief blasts Greg Clarke for using ‘litany of lazy, racist stereotypes’ that led to him quitting as FA chairman – as football fans brand him a ‘dinosaur’

  • Clarke used ‘coloured footballers’ term and described being gay as a ‘life choice’
  • He went to say some women players did not like the ball being kicked at them
  • It prompted outrage and he resigned, but anti-racism cause says he has form
  • Kick It Out chair said today there had been ‘a couple of incidents in the past’
  • Clarke’s remarks also sparked memes of dinosaurs and Gareth from The Office 

Former Football Association chairman Greg Clarke was today condemned for his ‘litany of absurd stereotypes’ by an anti-racism campaigner, who revealed the now-resigned chief also had ‘a couple of incidents in the past’.

Clarke, 63, stepped down after an excruciating parliamentary appearance where he referred to ‘coloured footballers’, described being gay as a ‘life choice’ and said women players did not like the ball being kicked at them.

He also told the Department for Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee on Tuesday morning South Asians and Afro-Caribbean people had ‘different career interests’ by citing the make-up of the FA’s IT department.

This morning Sanjay Bhandari, the chair of anti-discrimination organisation Kick It Out, said it was not the first time Clarke has made questionable comments.

In 2017 he described institutional racism and bullying as ‘fluff’ in front of a committee of MPs.

Mr Bhandari said: ‘I have met Greg a couple of times so I don’t know him well, I know that he has had a couple of incidents in the past and that he can be very loose with his language and so it was really disappointing, particularly given the progress we’ve made in recent weeks and the leadership diversity code that was launched a couple of weeks ago, but it wasn’t a massive shock.

Clarke said being gay was a ‘life choice’ and used the term ‘coloured footballers’ about players

Sanjay Bhandari, Kick It Out executive chair, responding to Clarke’s comments yesterday

Clarke’s ‘litany of absurd stereotypes’ 

‘If I look at what happens to high-profile female footballers, to high-profile coloured footballers, and the abuse they take on social media… social media is a free-for-all.’

‘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.’

‘The real issue is once you run out in front of 60,000 people and you decided on Monday that you wanted to disclose your sexuality – and I would never pressure anybody to disclose their sexuality – what I would want to do is to know that anybody who runs out onto the pitch and says, ‘I’m gay. I’m proud of it and I’m happy. It’s a life choice, and I’ve made it because my life is a better place”.’

‘I talked to a coach – and I’m not certain this is true – and said, “what’s the issue with goalkeepers in the women’s game?” She said, “young girls, when they take up the game (aged) six, seven, eight, just don’t like having the ball kicked at them hard”, right?’

‘This isn’t about the one word that he used this is about a litany of absurd stereotypes. 

‘We shouldn’t caricature this as being him using an outdated, it’s actually all of those other things. A combination of evidence says “You don’t really get it. You don’t understand the importance of equality, diversity and inclusion, particularly in your organisation and this is a strategic objection for you”.

‘It’s absolutely crucial that somebody that is at the top of the tree does get it.’ 

Mr Bhandari added to Radio 4 it was the totality of the comments that meant he had to step down.

He added the same kind of attitudes permeated throughout the game and had to be tackled.

Black Lives Matter activist Patrick Hutchinson also told GMB: ‘For me, when you make reference to people of colour, you’re talking basically about everyone that is non-white.

‘When you make reference to an individual being coloured, in his context he’s basically referring to a black person as coloured, and for me that’s unacceptable and for a wider audience that should be unacceptable.

‘That’s what they used to call us back in the day and we are no longer in those times.

‘We are in 2020 now and I think people should know now what they should be saying.’

MailOnline revealed on Tuesday afternoon Clarke immediately came under pressure from inside Wembley to quit after the disastrous interview. 

 

Twitter offered up its thoughts with dinosaur pictures and one of The Office’s character Gareth

A timeline of Greg Clarke’s reign as FA boss before his resignation for crass comments on race and sexuality

September 4 2016 – Two months after his nomination he starts in his role as FA chairman, replacing Greg Dyke.

September 27 2016 – Less than a month into the job, he sacks England manager Sam Allardyce after only one game in charge following comments he made in an undercover newspaper sting.

October 16 2017 – He comes under scrutiny for his role in the governing body’s handling of Eni Aluko’s claim of racism against national women’s team manager Mark Sampson, who was eventually sacked. He later admits that his organisation has ‘lost the trust of the public’.

September 27 2018 – He backs the plan to sell Wembley Stadium to Fulham owner Shahid Khan in order to raise finances, a deal that eventually fell through.

October 14 2019 – He leads calls for stricter punishments from UEFA after England’s black players suffer vile racist abuse during a Euro 2020 qualifier in Bulgaria.

October 19 2020 – He is heavily criticised for being involved in talks regarding Project Big Picture – a movement designed to change the landscape of English football.

November 10 2020 – Clarke apologises and then later resigns after using the word ‘coloured’ in an answer he gave to MPs at a committee hearing. He also appeared to pander to a series of racist and sexist stereotypes, as well as insinuating that being gay was a ‘life choice’ – although it is unclear whether he was referring to the decision to ‘come out’.   

And after canvassing the opinions of other Board members they came to the conclusion that he had no option but to stand down immediately.  

Clarke’s remarks had also sparked a series of memes online, comparing him to a dinosaur and even the Gareth character from The Office comedy.

One mocked him by saying ‘Welcome to fresh ideas with Greg Clarke. Dinosaur.’  

In his resignation statement Clarke admitted that comments in which he also stereotyped south Asians and described homosexuality as a ‘life choice’ were ‘unacceptable,’ but claimed to have been considering the FA for some time. 

In the short-term he will be replaced by long-serving Board member Peter McCormick as interim Chairman, giving the FA time to run a formal process to identity a permanent successor, in which they are committed to interviewing BAME candidates under the terms of Football Leadership Diversity Code they launched last month.

On GMB this morning former England player Gary Lineker ruled himself out of becoming chair after suggestions online. 

He said: ‘I’ve known Greg for a long time and he’s done quite a lot of good for diversity in the FA, but he had an awful day yesterday.

‘He’s had a tough year with the Premier League top six story, etc. He’s moved on, now they’re looking for someone else. I’m not a great organiser, I don’t think I’d be very good at that role anyway and obviously I have other jobs in football. But no, I’ve never been asked for my views on anything by our governing bodies.

‘I think the problem with football is that we do have three governing bodies – one of many problems in terms of how we run things. That is a problem because they kind of work against each other’s interests. Until we come together as one and unite, all singing from the same hymn sheet, I don’t think we’ll get things sorted out because it’s very difficult.’

Clarke was instrumental in the FA’s development of the code, which includes specific targets for inclusive recruitment policies and has been adopted by 19 Premier League clubs, but his words failed match his actions.  

He was also criticised for saying a coach had told him that the lack of women’s goalkeepers was due to girls not liking the ball being kicked at them, while Stonewall UK was among those who condemned his suggestion that being gay was a ‘life choice’.

Black Lives Matter activist Patrick Hutchinson said Clarke’s language was unacceptable

Clarke offered an apology for the ‘coloured’ remark soon afterwards after being prompted to do so by Kevin Brennan MP, but this apparent contrition was not enough to assuage the anger of FA Board members and staff who have increasingly come to view the chairman as an embarrassing liability. 

It is not the first time Clarke has made a race-related gaffe, as at a previous DCMS hearing in 2017 he described claims of institutional racism at the FA in the light of the Eni Aluko affair as ‘fluff.’ 

Clarke will also lose his position as a FIFA vice president as a result of leaving the FA four years after joining from the same role at the EFL, although the tone of his resignation statement was also criticised.

He had said: ‘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.’

Clarke’s departure was welcomed by anti-discrimination charity Kick It Out, who had been among those exerting private pressure for him to go earlier in the day. 

The Premier League and EFL will also be privately delighted at Clarke’s demise as both organisations have clashed with him recently over his role in the controversial Project Big Picture reform proposals for the top flight.

Who is Greg Clarke? Ex-FTSE 100 chairman who once described claims of institutional racism as ‘fluff’

Greg Clarke was born in Leicester in 1957 and is married with four adult children.

Prior to entering football, he served as chief executive of the Cable & Wireless Communications, a FTSE 100 firm, before working with a series of other major businesses. 

From 2010 to 2016, Clarke was chairman of the English Football League, before being appointed chairman of the FA in September 2016. 

He is known for his controversial comments, including infamously describing claims of institutional racism as ‘fluff’ in front of a Parliamentary committee. 

Clarke was also slammed by a victim of the paedophile football coach Barry Bennell after he accused the FA chairman of comparing him to a ‘crying baby’ in Parliament.

While FA chairman, he led the organisation’s response to allegations of historical sexual abuse in football and was quizzed by MPs in 2017 about his work.

During his testimony to MPs, Clarke controversially attacked the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) for ‘walking away’ from abuse victims, and spoke of an abuse survivor ‘crying like a baby’  after it refused money for counselling. 

Andy Woodward, who was abused by coach Barry Bennell at Crewe from the age of 11 to 15, believed Clarke was referring to him.

‘I certainly wasn’t crying like a baby and I feel humiliated by the words that he used,’ he said. ‘I feel extremely hurt. I didn’t feel it was appropriate to use those words about me from a very confidential meeting at Wembley last year. That deeply upset me.

‘I understand that he’s under a lot of pressure at the moment, but I’ve had several people that have contacted me directly saying that they feel really sorry for me. They instantly knew that it was me he was referring to.’  

Prior to working at the FA he had also been a director and chairman of Leicester City FC. 

MARTIN SAMUEL: Greg Clarke may as well have worn a red nose and a twirling bow-tie and entered to Laurel and Hardy music for his parliamentary hearing… the former FA chief showed himself to be just another old, out-of-touch white bloke

ByMartin Samuel – Sport for the Daily Mail

So now we know the truth about Football Association chairman Greg Clarke.

He really wasn’t that smart.

Racist, sexist, probably not. He used some very outdated language wrapped up in crudely stereotypical attitudes before a committee of politicians on Tuesday and paid a high price.

Clarke rightly apologised when corrected but, in the current climate, it was never going to be enough. He could not continue heading up an organisation that is supposed to be in the vanguard of equality issues, while talking like a caricature of a retired colonel in the bar of a Home Counties golf club.

Even if his allies inside the FA — there appear to have been fleetingly few come the end – did not see this as a resignation matter, it was never going to end there.

Given Clarke’s clumsy language and the horrified reaction to it, how was the FA ever going to move forward with him at the helm?

How could the governing body steer clubs over diversity with a chairman who regards a significant number of modern footballers — including Raheem Sterling, considering his remarks concerned abuse on social media — as ‘coloured’?

How could the game attempt to encourage more footballers of Asian ethnicity when the head of the FA buys into the falsehood that kids from that background are more interested in computer studies? And the most worrying aspect? It might be argued this was not even Clarke’s worst appearance before a parliamentary committee.

Previously, in 2017, he termed concerns about institutional racism ‘fluff’ and the session ended with the DCMS select committee chair asking whether he was the right man to lead the FA. Similar questions were being asked on Tuesday. That’s two appearances, three years apart, and both ended with the same conclusion about Clarke’s competence.

So, seriously, this guy? This is the best we could get to head up the national sport? Whether one regards Clarke’s words as a product of outmoded attitudes, ineptitude or nerves, none of it made him the best fit for office.

If there was dark irony to be gleaned from Tuesday’s fall from grace it was that this was also the man we were supposed to believe was the true mastermind behind Project Big Picture.

Again: this guy? Mr Coloured Footballers and all-Asians-like-to-work-with-computers? The leader who should have appeared before the DCMS committee in a red nose and twirling bow tie? This was the brains of the operation, the evil genius behind the planned restructure of English football?

Clarke’s use of the term ‘coloured’ was particularly troubling and his resignation could prove to be a catalyst for change for an organisation that oversees all aspects of the nation’s sport

Every time Clarke was called to explain his role in governance, his big clown feet and the honking of motor horns should have preceded him. He should have entered to the same music as Laurel and Hardy. And this is the figure one headline described as ‘ruthless’ in the way he had presided over football’s proposed revolution?

Niccolo Machiavelli was a brilliant man; a diplomat and philosopher. Clarke could not withstand 10 minutes of scrutiny from some of the most mediocre political minds of the age without losing all credibility.

‘Coloured’ has long been a troublesome term. People of a certain generation still mistakenly consider it a polite way to say black. That was what happened to Alan Hansen on Match of the Day during a debate about racism in football. He later apologised.

Yet Hansen was not responsible for English football at the time and that controversy, which received huge public attention, happened nine years ago.

Was it too much to ask that the head of one of the most high-profile bodies in English public life paid attention to shifts in language and mood?

If coloured was unacceptable in 2011, we shouldn’t still be waiting close to a decade for a man in Clarke’s position to catch up.

He is not your 85-year-old grandad, he is not from an era with a lexicon considered wholly inappropriate now.

And, even if he was, Clarke’s position at the helm of an organisation that is central to debates around inclusion, equality and progress, meant it was unacceptable that he is not aware of how the conversation evolved.

Clarke has been criticised before for the language that he has used when discussing racism

His mitigation was laughable. He said that having worked in the United States — he was chief executive officer of Cable & Wireless until 2000 — he got accustomed to using the term ‘people of colour’ as part of their diversity protocols.

Indeed, and had he used the same term on Tuesday, there wouldn’t have been a problem — well, not with that specific sentence at least.

Yet how, having returned from America, did ‘people of colour’ become the antiquated ‘coloured’ people in his speech? It doesn’t take a student of racial politics to identify ‘coloured’ as a colonialist term, or to understand it is now regarded as a slur with dreadful connotations from the plantations of Virginia to apartheid-era South Africa.

Clarke, as head or an organisation that is supposed to be at the forefront of equality issues, should have been especially attuned to these nuances.

Just as he should have been aware that at a time when just 10 of 4,000 professional footballers are British Asian — 0.25 per cent of players from seven per cent of the population — stereotyping that community as computer nerds rather than potential athletes was unhelpful.

These are not just words, or opinions, coming from a man who was the figurehead of the game. If the Asian community feels distanced from football — as players, not consumers — it is the job of the FA to forge links, not buy into the old prohibitors.

 Paul Elliott last month launched a new diversity code with the FA to tackle racial inequality

Clarke led the men’s game, the women’s game, the game as played in wheelchairs or by the blind, he led the game for black and white, for people of colour, for the disabled, for those who regard being gay as more than a lifestyle choice, and for anyone who felt outside the mainstream, because of race, physicality or sexuality.

We can continue finding divisions, but filling that role is the way forward. The chairman of the FA must lead football for all, and when he goes before the DCMS committee and gives the impression of being just another old, out-of-touch white bloke whose inadequacies should be indulged because he’s, well, an old, out-of-touch white bloke, there comes a time when we wonder how long we have to continue accepting this as the way of the world.

Last month, Clarke’s FA launched a new diversity code with the aim of tackling racial inequality. Certainly, Paul Elliott, the head of the FA’s Inclusion Advisory Board, speaks very highly of Clarke’s commitment.

Yet while BAME under-representation at board and coaching level is frequently discussed, strategies such as the Rooney Rule never seem to apply to the top jobs at the FA. So it is any wonder we are confronted with language from a bygone age?

Unwittingly, Clarke may yet prove a genuine catalyst for change; because, frankly, after Tuesday’s debacle, this cannot stand. 

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