FA chairman Greg Clarke resigns after 'colored footballer' remark

Chairman of The English Football Association (FA), Greg Clarke attends the 43rd Ordinary UEFA Congress on February 7, 2019 in Rome.

Greg Clarke has resigned as English Football Association (FA) chairman hours after referring to "colored footballers" during questions from members of parliament on Tuesday.

The 63-year-old was widely criticized after making a series of inappropriate comments while taking questions from members of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) select committee.

"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 crystallized my resolve to move on," Clarke said in a statement confirming his departure.

"I am deeply saddened that I have offended those diverse communities in football that I and others worked so hard to include."

Former Leicester City chairman Clarke was appointed by the FA in 2016, since then the governing body has worked hard to improve its stuffy image and become more inclusive.

Clarke was attending the DCMS meeting remotely to discuss the Premier League's financial rescue package for the English Football League (EFL) in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But when questions turned to diversity in English football and within the FA's own ranks he began to score verbal own goals at an alarming rate.

"If I look at what happens to high-profile female footballers, to high-profile colored footballers, and the abuse they take on social media ... social media is a free-for-all," Clarke said.

DCMS committee member Kevin Brennan MP later picked up Clarke on his choice of words, prompting an apology.

"If I said it I deeply regret it," Clarke replied. "I am a product of working overseas, where I was required to use the phrase people of color. Sometimes I trip over my words."

Clarke was also criticized for voicing other stereotypes during the meeting. Talking about diversity within football, he said South Asians and Afro-Caribbean people had "different career interests," using his own organization as an example.

"BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) communities are not an amorphous mass," he said. "If you look at top level football the Afro-Caribbean community is over-represented compared to the South Asian community."

"We can confirm that Greg Clarke has stepped down from his role as our chairman," the FA said in a statement on Tuesday. 

"Peter McCormick will step into the role as interim FA Chairman with immediate effect and the FA Board will begin the process of identifying and appointing a new Chair in due course.

"We would also like to reaffirm that as an organization, we are absolutely committed to doing everything we can to promote diversity, address inequality, and tackle all forms of discrimination in the game."

Labour MP Alex Davies-Jones, whose question provoked Clarke's "colored footballers" comment, said his terminology showed the "urgent progress" that is needed on equality.

"I can't believe we're still here in 2020," she said.

British sports minister Nigel Huddleston said via Twitter: "Greg Clarke's comments have caused deep offence and were completely unacceptable. I acknowledge his decades of service to football and his apology, but he was right to stand down as chairman of the FA. We must ensure that opportunities are open to everyone in the sports sector – from athletes to board members – and all forms of discrimination must be tackled head on."

Former FA chairman David Bernstein told BBC Sport: "I am just surprised that the chair of any organization who's got a feel of what's going on in the year 2020 could use those types of words, that sort of language. It's just inappropriate."

Former England striker Darren Bent said: "Slip of the tongue was it? Awful, just awful."

England defender Tyrone Mings believed appointing a black man or woman as the next chairperson would be a huge step forward.

"It would be a huge step. It would be everything that a lot of people have worked for," the Aston Villa players said.

"So we're not necessarily asking for that as a sign of, 'we've made it now' or, 'this is what we're fighting for.'

"What we're asking for really is equal opportunities for both Black and white people, or ethnic minorities, for everybody to have a fair crack of the whip."

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