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The Beautiful Game Turns Ugly: Why the FA were Right to Accept ‘Jurassic Clarke’s’ Resignation

By November 13, 2020No Comments

At Thinking Hat PR we champion diversity and inclusion. Not only is it a core value of the business, but everyday our work with entrepreneurs and innovators shows us how talent comes from every background. Our MD Emma Heley reflects on a recent interview that did not champion these values, the damage it can do, and who we can look to for leadership in this space.

‘That’ interview

Let’s be honest, Greg Clarke’s interview with the Diversity, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Select Committee was a total car crash and he emerged from it looking like an old fossil.  The rhetoric was lazy, offensive and pretty naïve for someone in such a high-profile position – which unfortunately became untenable.

For the Chairman of the Football Association (FA) to refer to black players as ‘coloured’ or to suggest you’ll always find an Asian bloke in the IT department is completely unacceptable. I mean, seriously!  The language is archaic and typical of the “dinosaur generation”, where casual racism, homophobia and sexism is regularly laughed off or referred to as ‘banter’.

As we are all coming to realise, perpetuating dangerous stereotypes and using derogatory language is not OK – and it’s time for serious change.

Diversity and Inclusion

What I love about the beautiful game is the richness in diversity.  Arsenal may be a North London club but their players span from France, Brazil, Scotland, Germany and the Ivory Coast. So, if there’s so much BAME talent on the pitch, why is it not reflected in the boardroom?

In October this year, the FA launched a campaign to tackle racial equality through the Football Leadership Diversity Code which is really encouraging to see but if the organisation is run by the Greg Clarke’s of this world, can we really take this initiative seriously?  What are they actually doing to promote diversity? Who is making them accountable?

According to the BBC, only five of the 92 Premier League and English Football League managers and head coaches are from BAME backgrounds and let’s not forget, the FA itself is pale, stale and very, very male. 

When it comes to hiring Greg Clark’s replacement, I hope the FA are open to equal opportunities – even if it means hiring a woman – but this shouldn’t be a tick box exercise, you really need the best person for the job.

Hire for talent

Thinking Hat is one of the most diverse PR companies I’ve ever come across and we pride ourselves on working with the best talent in the business.  Regardless of skin colour, sexual orientation, religion or gender, we hire for talent and that is a core company value.

Another company, I admire for the very same ethos is Amazon, who are hugely dedicated to diversity and inclusion – not just in HQ but across wider global communities. Every campaign is driven by their determination to bring minority groups to the forefront whether that’s women in tech or educating children about STEM careers or raising awareness of LGBTQ literature.

In 2018, Amazon curated Transgender guidelines which offers advice to employees and managers on issues ranging from access to bathrooms and dress codes to communicating about employees transitioning in the workplace.  In the very same year, there was an amazing story on the BBC about an employee called Sophie who Amazon helped transition.  In years to come, this won’t be headline news but for now, it’s good to acknowledge progress being made by companies like Amazon and innovation is key!

From a PR and reputation perspective, Greg Clarke’s resignation provides the FA with a massive opportunity to innovate and to become more diverse and inclusive – but they need to show REAL progress and REAL impact. Something Marcus Rashford, knows a little bit about 🙂