Greg Clarke has stepped down as chairman of the Football Association after making a series of inappropriate remarks in front of a parliamentary committee.
After an emergency meeting of the FA board, it was announced that Clarke would be leaving the position he has held since 2017 immediately. Clarke, 63, also holds a role as a vice-president at the international governing body Fifa.
Clarke had been summoned in front of the digital, culture, media and sport select committee to discuss his involvement in the controversial Project Restart. But in a run of digressive answers, Clarke used the phrase “coloured footballers” to describe black Asian and minority ethnic people and suggested that “different career interests” led South Asian people to choose careers in IT over sport. He also drew complaints for saying a coach had told him that the lack of women’s goalkeepers was due to girls not liking the ball being kicked at them, while Stonewall UK was among those who condemned Clarke when he insinuated that being gay was a “life choice”.
“My unacceptable words in front of parliament were a disservice to our game and to those who watch, play, referee and administer it,” said Clarke on Tuesday evening. “This has crystallised my resolve to move on. I am deeply saddened that I have offended those diverse communities in football that I and others worked so hard to include. I would like to thank my friends and colleagues in the game for the wisdom and counsel they have shared over the years and resign from the FA with immediate effect.”
The FA said in a statement: “Peter McCormick will step into the role as interim FA chairman with immediate effect and the FA Board will begin the process of identifying and appointing a new chair in due course.”
His remarks quickly caused astonishment and outrage and were condemned by voices from both inside and outside football. Sanjay Bhandari, the chief executive of anti-racist organisation Kick it Out, said of Clarke: “His use of outdated language to describe black and Asian people as ‘coloured’ is from decades ago and should remain consigned to the dustbin of history.”
Another former chair of the FA, David Bernstein, believed what Clarke had said was “symptomatic of an organisation that has just been too slow to reform. The expression ‘the fish rots from the head’ is a very appropriate one.”
The shadow equalities secretary, Labour’s Marsha de Cordova, said: “The comments made today were offensive and outdated. The FA must do much more than simply apologise – they should review all of their diversity programmes and ask whether they go far enough or fast enough.”