ANOTHER FINE MESS
When FA chairman Greg Clarke appeared before a Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee hearing back in 2017, he was forced to issue a grovelling apology for referring to the “fluff” of institutionalised racism. Along with a couple of other blazers, he’d been hauled before the governmental beaks to explain himself after the FA found the former England women’s manager Mark Sampson had made racially discriminatory remarks to two players, Drew Spence and Eni Aluko.
You could be forgiven, then, for thinking that as he stood before the mirror and knotted up his tie before his latest grilling by the grand inquisitors of the DCMS, Greg might have given himself a bit of a pep-talk. A simple reminder to learn from his mistakes, not to say anything from which people would take grave offence and … well, how difficult can it be? Very difficult indeed, would appear to be the answer to that particular query, if you happen to be a 63-year-old football administrator from the Jurassic era, well renowned for your bloated sense of self-regard.
A day that began badly for Clarke, when he was asked to apologise for referring to “coloured footballers” during a defence of the FA’s dedication to diversity, went rapidly downhill when he mentioned the “differing career interests” between employees from different backgrounds. “If you go to the IT department at the FA there’s a lot more south Asians than there are Afro-Caribbeans,” he was heard to say, despite the presence of his foot in his mouth. “They have different career interests.” One can’t help but feel that when Greg has had time to reflect on that particularly lazy bout of stereotyping, he will consider the benefits of taking his laptop to an independent specialist next time it goes on the blink.
Originally summoned to explain his own Machiavellian role in Project Big Picture and the current crisis of funding in football, Sideshow Greg wasn’t done just yet and promptly stepped on another rake. While he may have meant well when he said any footballer who decided to come out would almost certainly have the full support of their dressing-room chums, his good intentions were rather ruined when he referred to homosexuality as – no, really – a “lifestyle choice”.
So, to summarise, of the many elderly white men who wield the cudgels of power at FA HQ, the most senior has now been asked to apologise for his complete lack of sensitivity in matters of diversity for a second time in two excursions to parliament. To say he seems completely unfit for purpose in his role in a governing body eager to present itself as a beacon of awareness on such matters would be understating it, to say the least. But on the plus side for Greg, his latest demonstration of buffoonery has, for the time being at least, completely overshadowed the many other administrative shortcomings for which he has long been renowned and had originally been summoned to answer.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“It’s 2020. How long has the Premier League been around? And we’re only just seeing a club like Manchester United put effort and pounds towards a women’s team? Frankly, it’s disgraceful” – Megan Rapinoe lets rip over the snail-like pace of investment in the women’s game.
The latest Football Weekly podcast will be in this general vicinity.
“Not many managers have a style of play named after them, but Philip Cocu is sticking by what fans call ‘Cocuball’ at Pride Park. Unfortunately, after his dismal time at Fenerbahce – where using said style resulted in him being shown the door within six months and the club dropping to one place from bottom – his stubborn commitment has gone one step further, taking Derby to the foot of the Championship” – John Szparaga.
“Scott Blair’s suggestion that Mesut Özil employ Gunnersaurus as a driver (yesterday’s Fiver letters) is clearly ridiculous. Has Scott seen the size of Gunnersaurus’s feet? He can’t drive as he’d be unable to avoid pressing all the pedals at once. I fear it would be as bad as Michail Antonio dressed as a snowman” – David Maddock.
“As 75 million of us are about to spot-kick Velveeta Voldemort through the White House door marked ‘Do One’, I have a thought for lovers of The Greatest Game in the World: when you’re complaining about an insufferably lengthy VAR review, remember our elections. We still have plenty of winners yet to be declared” – JJ Zucal.
Send your letters to email@example.com. And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our letter o’the day is … John Szparaga, who wins a copy of The A-Z of Weird & Wonderful Football Shirts: Broccoli, Beer & Bruised Bananas by Richard Johnson [postage available to UK only, sorry – Fiver Postal Ed].
NEWS, BITS AND BOBS
Ten Football League clubs are struggling to pay wages this month, a parliamentary committee has heard. The Premier League’s proposed £50m rescue package for League One and Two clubs was described as “pitiful”.
Sheffield Wednesday’s kit manager may need to find an Owls baseball cap quick-sharp after it emerged the club are in talks with Tony Pulis about replacing Garry Monk, who has been booted through the door marked Do One.
Borussia Dortmund’s Jude Bellingham, 7, has been called up to the England squad for the first time after Trent Alexander-Arnold and James Ward-Prowse pulled out with muscle-knack. Meanwhile, England v Iceland in the Nations League could be played in Albania if Covid rules mean the visitors can’t enter the UK because the demand for that game is obviously so high it must go ahead at all costs.
Thiago Silva has revealed that the physicality of the Premier League has left him with a sore head. “After my last two games, I’ve had a terrible headache because there are non-stop aerial duels and a very high pace of play,” said the Chelsea defender.
And 2015’s Danny Drinkwater has commissioned a production company to make a Best of Danny Drinkwater video special in an attempt to secure a January move away from Chelsea, where he stalks the empty corridors like a latter-day Winston Bogarde.
STILL WANT MORE?
Former Derby defender Michael Johnson talks to Paul MacInnes about his mixed feelings on the FA’s new diversity code and the fight for equality.
Former Italy and Liverpool midfielder Alberto Aquilani gets his chat on with Sachin Nakrani about his difficult time at Anfield and why he was never a replacement for Xabi Alonso.
Pandemic football’s weird and fearful landscape is perfect for José Mourinho, reckons Jonathan Liew.
Is the balance of power in women’s football shifting from the USA! USA!! USA!!! to Europe, wonders Beau Dure.
Sid Lowe on how Covid ravaged Granada and the cautionary tale therein.
Oh, and if it’s your thing … you can follow Big Website on Big Social FaceSpace. And INSTACHAT, TOO!