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FA chairman Clarke apologises after referring to BAME players as 'coloured'

LONDON (Reuters) - Football Association chairman Greg Clarke apologised after referring to players from the BAME community as “coloured” during questions from members of parliament on Tuesday.

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - International Friendly - England vs Germany - Wembley Stadium, London, Britain - November 10, 2017 FA chairman Greg Clarke before the match Action Images via Reuters/Carl Recine/File Photo

Clarke, speaking in front of a Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee, was discussing issues around inclusion and diversity in grassroots football.

Asked about the possibility of a social media backlash for gay players ‘coming out’, Clarke said: “If I look at what happens to high-profile female footballers, to high-profile coloured footballers, and the abuse they take on social media is a free-for-all.”

DCMS committee member Kevin Brennan MP later picked up Clarke on his choice of phrase.

“If I said it I deeply regret it,” he replied. “I am a product of working overseas, where I was required to use the phrase people of colour. Sometimes I trip over my words.”

The FA issued a statement, saying: “Greg Clarke is deeply apologetic for the language he used to reference members of the ethnic minority community during the select committee hearing today.

“He acknowledged that using the term ‘coloured’ is not appropriate and wholeheartedly apologised during the hearing.”

Sanjay Bhandari, Executive Chair of anti-discrimination organisation Kick It Out said he was “extremely disappointed” to hear Clarke’s use of the “outdated” word coloured.

Clarke was also criticised for other comments during the meeting, which had earlier seen Premier League chief executive Richard Masters called to give an update on the Premier League’s financial rescue package for lower league teams.

Talking about diversity within football, Clarke said South Asians and Afro-Caribbean people had “different career interests”, and he used his own organisation as an example.

“BAME communities are not an amorphous mass,” he said. “If you look at top level football the Afro-Caribbean community is over-represented compared to the South Asian community.

“If you go to the IT department of the FA there’s a lot more South Asians than there are Afro-Caribbeans. They have different career interests.”

Labour MP Alex Davies-Jones, whose question provoked Clarke’s “coloured footballers” comment, said his terminology showed the “urgent progress” that is needed on equality.

“I can’t believe we’re still here in 2020,” she said.

Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Hugh Lawson