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FA chairman Greg Clarke claims bid to increase board diversity was blocked

2018 UEFA European Under-17 Championship Draw – St George’s Park
(Image credit: Tim Goode)

Moves to make the Football Association board more diverse were blocked by the members representing the Premier League and the English Football League, FA chairman Greg Clarke has claimed.

The English top flight gave its support to the Black Lives Matter movement when its competition restarted last month, with the slogan being carried on the backs of players’ shirts.

However, anti-discrimination groups are now seeking answers from the league after Clarke claimed the professional game representatives on the FA board, which includes EFL chairman Rick Parry, stood in the way of a review of the FA board’s composition.

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The review would have meant Paul Elliott, the chair of the FA’s inclusion advisory board, becoming a director, and would have freed up a further two positions which could be occupied by diverse candidates as two independent directors had expressed a willingness to stand down.

The professional game is represented on the FA board by Peter McCormick – the chair of the Premier League’s legal advisory group – Parry and Rupinder Bains, who jointly represents the Premier League and the EFL.

The board members representing the national game were in favour of a review, Clarke said, but did not want to oppose the professional game board members.

FA chairman Clarke said in a letter to his organisation’s Council that he was “disappointed” by the development, which comes as Elliott is working on a voluntary Equality In Football Leadership code to increase BAME representation at a decision-making level in the sport.

Clarke said the professional game representatives felt changes made on the back of a 2017 reform programme were sufficient. Following those reforms, 10 per cent of the board are from a BAME background, 10 per cent are from an LGBT+ background and 40 per cent are women.

Paul Elliott is the chair of the FA's inclusion advisory board

Paul Elliott is the chair of the FA’s inclusion advisory board (John Stillwell/PA)

The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee recently called for more to be done to improve diversity at the top level of football and other sports, saying in a report issued last week: “We do not believe that the voluntary initiative proposed by the FA will motivate clubs to act with sufficient speed.”

Instead, it called on the DCMS department to revise the code for sports governance and add targets for BAME representation on boards.

Kick It Out chair Sanjay Bhandari said: “Black Lives Matter has rightfully caused organisations across all industries to consider how they attack systemic inequalities and better reflect society.

“That process must start at the top with the senior leadership team. It is only right that the FA should seek to seize the moment, to reflect on the composition of its leadership team and whether it represents the players, fans and participants in the game.

“I applaud Greg Clarke’s effort to do so. It is disappointing that this effort has been rejected. Before commenting further, we would need to understand better the professional game’s reasons for rejecting a review.”

Kick It Out chair Sanjay Bhandari is keen to understand why the professional game representatives rejected a review

Kick It Out chair Sanjay Bhandari is keen to understand why the professional game representatives rejected a review (Bradley Collyer/PA)

Piara Powar, the executive director of the anti-discrimination Fare network, tweeted: “Hey @premierleague you used your veto to block a qualified black person joining the FA board.

“We know you support #BlackLivesMatter it appeared on the backs of players shirts. Show that wasn’t an empty gesture, let qualified people sit around the top table. Share power.”

The Premier League and the EFL are still to issue any comment on the matter.

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