LONDON－England manager Gareth Southgate said Greg Clarke had no option but to resign as Football Association chairman after making a series of inflammatory remarks when giving evidence to lawmakers on Tuesday.
Clarke, 63, resigned just hours after he referred to black players as “colored”, claimed the lack of soccer players of South Asian origin was due to “different career interests”, described being gay as a “life choice” and that girls were often put off playing the game because they did not want to be hit hard by balls.
Southgate’s England side has taken a strong stand against racist incidents. A Euro 2020 qualifier in Bulgaria last year was twice stopped by the referee after racist abuse was directed toward England players.
“I think as he said himself the terminology he used in a number of areas was not acceptable,” Southgate said on Wednesday.
“It doesn’t reflect the view of the FA, doesn’t reflect what we as a team stand for. I don’t think he had any alternative but to take the decision he did to resign.”
The FA has been challenged by a series of former players and administrators to prove it is serious about diversity in its process for appointing Clarke’s successor.
Southgate, though, believes English soccer’s governing body is far more diverse than is perceived outside the organization. “There are over 800 people who work at the FA from diverse national backgrounds, different sexuality, members of the LGBT community. It’s as diverse an organization as I have been a part of,” added Southgate.
“I think internally there was a lot of upset about what had been said. I think Greg recognized among all the other challenges of what he said yesterday would have provided, the upset of what he said internally was massive.”
But when asked whether the next FA chairman should be black or female, Southgate insisted the role has to go to the best candidate.
“I think we have a lot of black and female staff at the FA and they would want the right person for the role,” he said. “That could be anybody from any background, anybody of any gender. I could easily grandstand and say it should be somebody from one part of the community but I don’t think that would be correct.”
The FA hopes to appoint a new chairman by the end of March and Southgate touted the credentials of former Chelsea and Celtic player Paul Elliott, the chairman of its inclusion advisory board.
“What I admire about someone like Paul Elliott is he has committed himself to football administration, there are a lot of hours to that,”Southgate said. “There are a lot of meetings to attend that a lot of people don’t want to do. The reforms Paul has helped to put in place deserve a lot of commendation.
“It isn’t for everybody. A lot of the people proposed, populist views, don’t really want to put the hours in or have that responsibility. It has to be a particular type of person and I’m highlighting Paul as I have great respect for what he has done within our organization.”
FIFA welcomed Clarke’s FA resignation but said it was up to him whether he also leaves his role as vice-president of the world governing body.
Clarke’s FIFA term runs through 2023. He was elected by the congress of European governing body UEFA, so FIFA would appear unable to remove Clarke from its ruling council without opening an ethics case.
“FIFA’s zero-tolerance position on discrimination remains steadfast and clear: any form of discrimination, including racism, sexism and homophobia, has no place in football,” FIFA said in a statement. “In the circumstances and given the nature of his comments, FIFA considers that Mr. Clarke did the right thing to resign as chairman of the FA yesterday.”
“He is, of course, free to resign from the FIFA Council, just as he has resigned as chairman of the FA,”FIFA said. “It is for Mr. Clarke to take that decision.”