Julie Elliott MP

Standing up for Sunderland Central

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FA chairman condemned for institutional racism "fluff" remark

FA chairman Greg Clarke has been criticised by MPs – including Julie Elliott of Sunderland Central - for describing institutional racism as “fluff” as he gave evidence on discrimination in football.

 

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Mr Clarke and three other FA chiefs appeared in front of a parliamentary committee in October after new evidence found ex-England women’s manager Mark Sampson made racial remarks to two players.

The footballing body apologised to striker Eniola Aluko and midfielder Drew Spence for Sampson’s “ill-judged attempts at humour” which were “discriminatory on the grounds of race”.

But speaking to a committee of MPs meeting on October 13, to discuss the report into football racism and bullying, Mr Clarke found himself in hot water again.

Asked by Julie whether he believed the FA had fulfilled its duty of care to striker Ms Aluko, who has 100 caps for England, the FA boss replied: “No.”

He went on: “It's really important in a governance role not to jump to conclusions. If I'd jumped to a conclusions halfway through this process – ‘there's no problem here, nothing's been found, whatever’, you have to look at the end what is established.”

He added: “What is established, putting aside all the fluff about institutional racism, institutional bullying-" before MPs cut him off in disagreement.

“Fluff is not the word I’d use to describe that,” one MP said, while Ms Elliott said his use of the word “speaks volumes” about his attitude, adding that “language matters”.

Mr Clarke responded: “Please don't take it out of context. What I was trying to say, maybe badly, is I could get distracted by the irrelevant. I shouldn't have said fluff.”

The FA chief, who succeeded Greg Dyke as chairman last year, added: “I could have come in and said, well Katharine Newton [the author of the investigation] said there's no evidence of bullying, of systemic racism. 

“But that's not the issue, that's why I mischaracterised [sic] it as fluff. What I wanted to talk about was the material issue and I apologise for phrasing it badly.

“The material issue is twice an England player with 100 caps was exposed to a situation where racist abuse happened. That is a fundamental breach of our duty of care to that person and I feel very bad about that."

** Sampson, 34, has always denied allegations of discrimination and racism. 

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