England defender Tyrone Mings says it would be a “huge step” for the Football Association to hire a black successor to Greg Clarke after the governing body’s chairman was forced to resign over his offensive comments.
Clarke stepped down from his role on Tuesday after referring to “coloured footballers” when talking about diversity to members of a government select committee.
The 63-year-old also claimed that South Asians and Afro-Caribbean people have “different career interests” on the basis of the make-up of the FA’s IT department, as well as describing homosexuality as a “life choice”. Clarke offered an apology for his embarrassing gaffes soon afterwards, claiming he was “deeply saddened” for words that were a “disservice to our game”.
But just hours later he quit following a tidal wave of criticism from both inside the FA and across the football world. While Clarke’s fate was being sealed, Aston Villa centre-back Mings was speaking to the media in a thoughtful and intelligent take on the issue of race in football.
Mings was told that Clarke had resigned in the course of the interview, but just before that he had suggested the BAME community would welcome being represented by an FA chairman.
“Of course. It would be a huge step. It would be everything that a lot of people have worked for, a lot of people more senior than myself,” Mings said. “A lot of people have been fighting this cause for a lot longer than myself.”
Mings made it clear that hiring someone from the BAME community should not be for appearances sake and he stressed only a viable candidate would be deserving of the role.
“Ultimately that isn’t what we are asking for. We are not asking for the next chairman or chief to be black. We are asking for equal opportunities for both black and white people or ethnic minorities,” he said. “The opportunities to be equal, for the candidates themselves to be rightly qualified for the job. I don’t think anyone would want the job, whether you are black or white, if you weren’t qualified for it and you weren’t equipped to be successful in that role.
“We aren’t necessarily asking for it as a sign we have made it now. We are asking for equal opportunities, for everybody to have a fair crack of the whip.”
‘Long way to go’
Following the death of George Floyd at the hands of a white police officer in the United States earlier this year, the Black Lives Matter movement has grown in strength. All Premier League teams take a knee before matches to express solidarity with the cause. But Mings, 27, believes Clarke’s insensitive comments show there is still work to be done to educate people about racism.
“I don’t think there is any excusing it. The fact he came out and apologised, I think he knows he has done wrong,” Mings said. “He fell short of what he should know. We are asking that you understand the world we are living in and you understand what you can and can’t say. It’s unfortunate it has happened today. We are doing such great work at the moment in society, we are trying to drive things forward.
“I don’t think it has set us back. It has probably shined a light on what we are saying. We still have a long way to go, we still have to educate each other, we still have to stay on top of it. We have to take responsibility for what we say.
Educating the generations that are coming through is one thing, but also understanding that we are living in one world and the people who came before us were living in another one. It’s just about moving with the times.”