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Kick It Out chief blasts Greg Clarke for using ‘litany of absurd stereotypes’

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

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

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.

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’.

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. 

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

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

‘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. 


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