11 November 2020

Exclusive: Amal Fashanu on how chairman Greg Clarke’s departure must be seized upon by the FA as an opportunity

Amal Fashanu believes Greg Clarke’s abrupt exit from the FA provides an opportunity to address ‘an uncultured and uneducated’ environment within football’s governing body.

Clarke quit as chairman yesterday after using the term ‘coloured’ to describe black players and insinuated that being gay was a ‘life choice’.

But Fashanu, an active campaigner against racism and homophobia in sport, says that while his departure was inevitable, she accepts he may not have intended his comments to be racist due to a ‘lack of awareness’.

Clarke’s comments, made over a video link to a Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee, were branded ‘harmful’, ‘archaic’ and ‘deeply offensive’ by a host of anti-discrimination groups as well as current and former footballers.

The 63-year-old was also condemned for saying that black and South Asian people had ‘different career interests’ from each other, and drew complaints for saying a women’s coach had told him that the lack of women’s goalkeepers was due to girls not liking the ball being kicked at them.

Here, in an exclusive Q&A session with NewsChain, Fashanu gives her view on Clarke’s comments and what the FA needs to do next.

Q: Greg Clarke's comments appeared inappropriate and from a different era, did they shock you?

Fashanu: 'To be honest it didn't shock me at all. It's something that I think is like lying or sleeping within the football culture and I feel like until these men kind of either pass away or retire that's something that's going to be lurking around. It's not anything special to be fair and to give him a little bit of credit it's almost like that's something to do with his upbringing and his environment and that probably was a way of describing black people that was semi-acceptable at the time. What would be shocking is if he used the n-word or whatever, the fact that he said coloured it's a bit like you can see that the poor guy may not have meant that in a racist way but it comes across as racist because it is racist and you just don't know about it because of the unawareness.

Fashanu gave Clarke credit for standing down

(PA Media)

Did you welcome his resignation?

I think it's an honourable thing to do in a way, I guess you know he made a mistake, he knew this mistake couldn't be fixed so instead of making a fuss he just resigned which is fair enough and if more and more resign I guess we can put more people in position that actually know what they're talking about and have a bit of tact and sensitivity towards other people.

Is there a need for education with the FA?

Definitely, I mean with the foundation [The Justin Fashanu Foundation she created in 2019 in memory of her uncle] now we're looking at building the Justin Fashanu Academy and that would be one of the main things that we would want to target. We'd want to target education at grassroots level so this doesn't happen and even if they are 60 years-old or 70 years-old for them to also learn about it as clearly if they're going to govern and be put in positions of importance within football then they need to know these things. You can't do that. Even if it's about you being brought up in a different place or it's a cultural thing or you know it's education, there's no excuses nowadays. It's 2020, you should inform yourself especially with something like that where you have a team where half of the footballers are black.

Should the FA review the issues of racism, homophobia and sexism in its organisation and the sport in general?

I think it needs a huge internal review and the fact that, maybe, give them some lessons that you can give these people who are in high positions that need to know about this stuff. It just seems very uncultured and uneducated of someone to be in a position like he is and not know that and, yeah, you can't blame him because it's his upbringing, but at the same time he should know that and if he doesn't know that he needs to know that because we're in a society where we're not going to accept these types of mistakes and errors and 'oh sorry' it just doesn't go. So I feel like the FA need to at some point take some time to think about what they are doing, review it and see if they are doing enough.

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