The Football Association’s chief executive, Mark Bullingham, has acknowledged it still has more to do to ensure equality and diversity in the game as it begins the search for a new chairman following Greg Clarke’s resignation on Tuesday.
Clarke stepped down after his description of “coloured footballers”, among other remarks about gay and female players, in a digital, culture, media and sport select committee hearing were widely condemned, with the 63-year-old having tended his resignation following an emergency meeting of the FA board.
Peter McCormick – a former Leeds director and the longest-serving board member – is now serving as interim chairman and is working with other board members to finalise the process for recruiting a permanent replacement by spring, which Bullingham said would conform to the new diversity code released last month. But in a statement released on Wednesday, the CEO admitted that Clarke’s terminology had been “unacceptable and offensive”.
“We respect his decision [to resign] and are clear that his words simply do not reflect the views of the FA, our people and the organisation we are today,” he said. “We are committed to playing a lead role in actively enhancing equality and diversity across English football, whilst steadfastly challenging and tackling all forms of discrimination. As with many organisations in this country, we are on a journey and have made substantial progress in these areas.
“For example, our published In Pursuit of Progress plan has helped us to create a far more inclusive and diverse organisation. Our work on the Football Leadership Diversity Code has taken many elements of this plan, such as published targets for ethnic and gender diversity, to drive change throughout the game. We have consistently reduced our gender pay gap to be far smaller than many organisations and have a very small ethnicity pay gap. We are investing record amounts in the women’s game, which remains one of our top priorities.
“Whilst all of this is progress, we would be the first to accept that we have more to do. We are committed to further progress and will continue to transparently publish our plans and targets.”
It is understood Clarke is likely to step down as a Fifa vice-president for the Uefa region – a post that carries a £190,000 salary – and as a member of Fifa’s council given that both roles are usually dependent on the incumbent being head of a national association. He was elected to the former in 2019 having been nominated by Uefa, although it would still require his resignation to trigger a new election at European football’s governing body’s next congress scheduled for March.
The Aston Villa and England defender Tyrone Mings is among those who have called for the next FA chairman to be from a BAME background, with Paul Elliot – the former Chelsea and Celtic defender who was the chief architect of the new diversity code and is already a non-voting member of the board – potentially among the candidates.
Sanjay Bhandari, the executive chair of the anti-racism organisation Kick It Out, has ruled himself out but has offered his assistance to the FA in finding the right candidate to replace Clarke.