LONDON (Reuters) - England manager Gareth Southgate expressed some sympathy for former Football Association chairman Greg Clarke but said he had no option but to leave after a series of inappropriate comments during a parliamentary committee meeting on Tuesday.
The 63-year-old Clarke referred to “coloured footballers” while addressing members of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee. He also said south Asian and Afro-Caribbean people had “different career interests” and referred to gay players making a “life choice”.
“As he said himself, the terminology he used in a number of areas was not acceptable and doesn’t reflect the view of the FA and what we as a team stand for,” Southgate told a news conference ahead of Thursday’s friendly against Ireland.
“I don’t think he had any alternative than to take the decision to resign.”
“What’s a shame for him is he has done a lot of work behind the scenes to support the diversity code and make inroads into relationships around Europe.”
The FA has taken strides to become a more diverse organisation and Southgate said he was proud that its 800 staff represented all sections of the community.
“Unfortunately he is going to be remembered for the comments he made,” Southgate said. “There is a balance to that as I don’t like to see people suffer so publicly as he has. But what he said wasn’t acceptable.”
Clarke will be replaced by long-serving Board member Peter McCormick on an interim basis while the search goes on for a successor. Southgate said the appointment should be made on suitability for the role, rather than ethnicity or gender.
“I think we have a lot of black and female staff at the FA and I think what they would all say they want is the right person for the role, that could be from any background or gender, but it has to be the right person,” Southgate said.
Clarke’s departure has led to calls for a chairman from the black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) community and Southgate threw the name of former Chelsea player Paul Elliott, chair of the FA’s Inclusion Advisory Board, into the mix.
“A lot of names have been put forward and it’s easy to have opinions, but what I like about someone like Paul Elliott is that he’s committed himself to football administration,” Southgate said. “There are a lot of hours to that, a lot of meetings. The reforms Paul has helped put in place over the last few months deserve a lot of commendation.”
Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Toby Davis
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