English Football Association (FA) chairman Greg Clarke was forced to apologise for using the term “coloured” in reference to black footballers on Tuesday — prompting a senior lawmaker to question the body’s commitment to diversity.
Clarke was giving evidence to the House of Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee (DCMS) on the future of English football.
The 63-year-old, who is also a vice-president of world governing body FIFA, also attracted criticism for suggesting the lack of professional players in England from a South Asian background was due to “different career interests”, comparing the situation to the IT department at the FA. Clarke also described being gay as a “life choice” when quizzed over the lack of openly gay male players in England.
In a statement the FA staid: “Greg Clarke is deeply apologetic for the language he used to reference members of the ethnic minority community during the select committee hearing today. “He acknowledged that using the term ‘coloured’ is not appropriate and wholeheartedly apologised during the hearing.”
However, Conservative MP Julian Knight, who chairs the DCMS committee, questioned the FA’s record on the matter. “It’s right that Greg Clarke apologised before the committee,” he tweeted. “However, this isn’t the first time that the @FA has come to grief over these issues. It makes us question their commitment to diversity.”
When asked by another member of the committee, Kevin Brennan, about whether he wished to withdraw the use of the word “coloured” in one of his earlier answers, Clarke apologised and said the American use of the phrase “people of colour” was the reason for his mistake. On Monday, the FA gave an update on its three-year equality, diversity and inclusion strategy, launched in 2018.
“In Pursuit of Progress” aims to promote equality and increase the diversity of those playing, officiating, coaching, leading and governing English football.
Anton Ferdinand, who was at the centre of a racism storm during his career when he suffered abuse from former England and Chelsea captain John Terry, said Clarke’s reference was “unacceptable”. Terry was cleared of a criminal charge of racial abuse of Ferdinand during a match in 2011, but he was subsequently banned and fined by the FA.
Ferdinand tweeted: “I appreciate that the @FA are doing some good work with their diversity campaign but it’s important the chairman Greg Clarke knows using the term ‘coloured footballers’ to reference people of ethnicity is unacceptable!!!! Clearly education is needed at all levels.”