The President of the Football Association, Greg Clarke, apologized on Tuesday for using a racist phrase during a parliamentary committee hearing on the future of English football.
Asked why there is no openly gay elite level footballer in England, Clarke replied: “The answer is I don't know, it's true, because I spent a lot of time talking to people in the LGBT community. I have spoken to LGBT athletes from other sports who have come forward.
“The point of view I have heard is, if I look at what is happening to top female footballers, top footballers of color and the abuse they suffer on social media.
Clarke was attending a meeting of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee to discuss the lack of progress in conversations between the Premier League, the English Football League and the FA to agree a financial package for help the 92 clubs to survive the current drop in revenue caused. by COVID-19.
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However, parliamentarians took the opportunity to tackle a range of broader issues, including the lack of ethnic representation of minorities on governing boards and insufficient funding for women's and grassroots football.
“Not from the crowd because you get this behavior in the crowd, but for the most part people have bought a subscription and they are going to behave because they will be banned for life if they give racist or homophobic abuse.
“But social media is free for everyone. People can see if you are black and if they don't like black people because they are dirty racists, okay they will abuse you anonymously online. They can see if you are a woman.
“Some of the top black footballers suffer terrible abuse. I spoke to them. Absolutely despicable abuses. I haven't spoken directly to gay footballers because I haven't been able to find someone who can meet me. But when I talk to other people around the game, gay sportsmen, why are you willingly signing up for this abuse?
“As soon as you raise your hand, the dark corners of social media will come after you and we need the government to help us regulate social media so that racists, homophobes and misogynists cannot target anyone who dares to say anything. is. they do not agree. We need help in this area. "
Clarke then answered another question before DCMS committee chairman Julian Knight interrupted her to bring in another member, Cardiff West MP Kevin Brennan.
“Mr. Clarke, diversity isn't really the issue, it's – football is diverse – it's inclusion that's the issue,” Brennan began.
“When you said something earlier I think I heard you refer to 'people of color' – if so, would you take that language out? Because it's not exactly the kind of language that means inclusion is not a reality even though football is very diverse and has many people from ethnic minorities as well as gays. "
Clarke replied, “First, if I said so, I deeply apologize. Second, I am the product of having worked abroad. I worked in the United States for many years where I had to use the term “people of color” because that was the product of their diversity legislation and affirmative action format. Sometimes I stumble over my words and apologize deeply. "
Clarke had detailed how the FA tackles issues of diversity and inclusion in English football and acknowledged the importance of the issues in lengthy and detailed answers.
But her testimony was littered with additional awkward language, stereotyping Asians while claiming a coach told her young girls don't like being kicked the ball.
“If you go to the IT department of the FA, there are a lot more South Asians than Afro-Caribbean,” he said in a response. “They have different career interests. "
The FA released a statement shortly after the hearing ended, which read: "Greg Clarke deeply apologizes for the language he used to refer to members of the ethnic minority community during the committee hearing. restricted today. He acknowledged that the use of the term “colored” is inappropriate and apologized wholeheartedly at the hearing. "