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Pressure grows on FA to show diversity matters

A chorus of former players and football administrators urged the English Football Association to prove they are serious about diversity when they choose the successor to former chairman Greg Clarke.

Clarke resigned on Tuesday after referring to “coloured footballers” when talking about diversity to British lawmakers on the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee.

The 63-year-old also claimed South Asians and Afro-Caribbean people have “different career interests” on the basis of the make-up of the FA’s IT department, as well as describing homosexuality as a “life choice”.

England defender Tyrone Mings said hiring a black chairman would be a “huge step” but insisted the appointment should be made on the basis of equal opportunities for the right candidate.

Former Manchester United striker Andy Cole said the ball is firmly in the FA’s court as to whether they show they are serious about diversity at the top of the game. 

“Unfortunately it has come around the way it has done,” Cole told the BBC on Wednesday. “But they’ve been speaking about diversity for some time and now they are in a position to see how they can move forward at the FA, what are they prepared to do about it?”

Former Manchester City defender Nedum Onuoha said Clarke’s words were that of someone who has lived in an echo chamber.

“It’s outrageous to be honest – it sounds like something from 20, 30 years ago,” Onuoha, now at Real Salt Lake, told the BBC. 

“That language has been inappropriate for decades now so it shows in some ways that perhaps he’s lived in an echo chamber where things like this are acceptable to say.”

Another former FA chairman David Bernstein claimed English football’s governing body had been “resistant to change” over many years.

Bernstein is part of a group, also containing former Manchester United captain Gary Neville and Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham, who have called for independent regulation of football.

“The FA has been resistant to serious change over the years and frankly if you have an organisation that is not modern, that has not been updated, then this sort of thing is much more likely to happen,” said Bernstein.

“I hope there are progressive people across the board who feel strongly about this. I think the FA has to think very carefully about the sort of person who is brought forward to lead the organisation next time.”

Bernstein said a diverse shortlist of candidates must be drawn up.

“A fish rots from the head. If the head of the organisation is not modernised and up-to-date and forward-thinking, then these sorts of things will happen, inevitably.

“The shortlist needs to have diversity within it, so that the final selection is a real choice with people of different backgrounds available for choice.”

Neville repeated his call for outside governance.

“Compelling evidence again yesterday as to why an independent regulator is required for football,” he tweeted. “Football cannot govern itself!”

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