Football Association chairman Greg Clarke has apologised after using the word “coloured” in an answer he gave to MPs at a committee hearing on Tuesday.
Clarke was answering a question around the difficulty of homosexual players in the men’s game coming out because of social media backlash.
Clarke had said: “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.
“People can see if you’re black and if they don’t like black people, because they’re filthy racists, they will abuse you anonymously online.
“They can see if you’re a woman, some of the high-profile black, female footballers take terrible abuse, absolutely vile abuse.
“I haven’t talked directly to gay footballers because I haven’t been able to find any who would meet me but I talk to other people around the game and they say ‘why would you voluntarily sign up for that abuse?’”
When Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) committee member Kevin Brennan pointed out the word he had used and asked Clarke if he would like to withdraw it, Clarke said: “If I said it I deeply apologise.
“I am a product of working overseas, where I was required to use the phrase people of colour. Sometimes I trip over my words.”
The FA later tweeted to say: “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.”
DCMS select committee chair Julian Knight MP wrote on Twitter: “It’s right that Greg Clarke apologised before the Committee, 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.”
It was a sentiment echoed by former Premier League defender Anton Ferdinand, who wrote: “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.”
Clarke was asked about what the FA was doing to improve diversity within the governing body.
“I was talking to the chair of a county FA from the west country. He has tried to now make sure he has representation within diverse communities,” Clarke said.
“(He told me) ‘I’m over-committed with South Asians, I’m not getting enough people from Afro-Caribbean backgrounds’.
“The BAME communities aren’t an amorphous mass. If you look at top-level football, the Afro-Caribbean community is over-represented versus the South Asian community.
“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.”
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