OPINION: Racism isn’t down to age - it’s down to a lack of education

Greg Clarke, who has resigned as Football Association chairman after comments he made on Tuesday. Pi

Greg Clarke, who has resigned as Football Association chairman after comments he made on Tuesday. Picture: PA - Credit: PA

Columnist Rachel Moore says hiding behind old age as an excuse to be racist is wrong

Girls too scared of have a ball kicked at them to become goalkeepers, gay footballers afraid to come out being a life choice and “coloured footballers.”

No, this wasn’t a working men’s club in 1973 before a wannabe Bernard Manning stand-up, it was Tuesday, the day before yesterday – and from the mouth of the man at the head of the organisation representing one of society’s biggest influencers, football.

FA chair Greg Clarke had a car crash of a day when he answered questions from the digital, culture, media and sport select committee.

Within hours he had apologised and resigned, acknowledging his inappropriate language. Then it was Wednesday.

What I really hope is that the future looked very different on Wednesday in FA HQ, and there was no drawing a line under his ‘gaffe’ and carrying on as normal in the organisation representing an arena that witnesses – and hosts – blatant in-your-face racism, homophobia (listen to the ‘fans’ chants’), misogyny and chauvinism (listen to the fans’ chat and their behaviour).

If you front up an organisation, a key responsibility to act with care, empathy and understanding. The fish rots from the head is a very apt phrase.

Most Read

But Clarke is not alone in his loose, thoughtless and apparently uneducated choice of language. Or, for that matter, the inability to view life through anyone else’s eyes than their own.

Many would have rolled their eyes and claim Clarke as another victim of an ‘agenda’ and ‘politics.’ Where’s the harm in a few ill-chosen words? they will ask, with another eye roll.

Wednesday at the FA should have been day one of an inquiry to look seriously and deeply at what was going wrong, why all it claims it is doing for diversity and racism is clearly not working, or becoming embedded at the very top and taking urgent action to ensure Tuesday was the very last time.

This was a wake-up call. If all went on as normal after Clarke’s resignation, then nothing will change, and we’ll be back here again, soon. Doing the same always gets the same outcome.

And no one in the organisation understands why there has to be change.

There’s no doubt Clarke meant no malice. But that’s the point. It’s the attitude and the subliminal motivation that’s the issue, and, after all that he must have read, heard and seen, he still uses language in the highest profile of settings that is wholly unacceptable

The stereotyping, prejudice and inappropriate language was “a generational issue,” I read somewhere. What? He’s 63. And as chair of the FA, which has made a big noise about its new diversity code.

But is this purely lip service rather than accepting, from the roots to the top, that everyone involved in football – and every area of life – has a duty of care to understand what’s going on in the world and understand the words that can and can’t be used,

It’s not hard to use terminology that doesn’t cause offence.

This is far from a generational issue.

A few months ago, when we were allowed, a rumpus broke out between two young men in a village pub. The aggressor, a white local man no older than 20, went for the young black man when he walked into the pub’s outside area snarling” “You black **** (word that can’t be printed).’

Blatant racist attack. It was shocking to hear and shone a light on the fact that we’re so deluded if we believe racism is a generational issue.

As is the excuse that some racism is better than others. An astounding assertion that he just got a word wrong or was a bit stereotypical. There are no grades or levels of acceptability of racist language.

We all have a responsibility to know what is offensive and inappropriate and think before we speak. It’s about respect, decency, being part of a society and inclusion.

The irony with the statements was that they came just weeks after the FA sought to take a lead on inclusion with the launch of its Football Leadership Diversity Code.

He’s spent four years in the role too, so should know better.

Witnessing racism in youth football years ago, I remember a parent of a perpetrator saying “people like that”, (i.e black) “looked for offence in people’s language.”

But it’s often the person accusing others of taking quick offence who has never felt the pain of discrimination, prejudice or exclusion, but would be the first to cry foul if he, or she, did.

Shape up, FA. There’s still so much work to do.

What lockdown? This column was to be a C-word free zone this week, until it became so apparent that Lockdown 2.0 was the greatest misnomer.

This week the roads have been as busy as ever, and the shops and businesses that have managed to slither under the ‘essential’ banner are those that most people could live easily without.

National and international businesses are open, serving customers or at least having contact with customers by click and collect. Car parks are busy.

How galling to run a small business, beauty salon, hair salon, shop or a gym and watch big businesses raking it in.

It feels criminal.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter