Rabbatts makes commission plea

FA board member Heather Rabbatts has hit out at the decision to name an all-white, all-male commission to look at England's team.

Last Updated: 19/10/13 at 07:58 Post Comment

Heather Rabbatts: Unhappy with commission line-up

Heather Rabbatts: Unhappy with commission line-up

Football Association board member Heather Rabbatts has launched a fierce attack on chairman Greg Dyke's decision to name an all-white, all-male commission to improve the England team.

Rabbatts, who was born in Jamaica and is of mixed race, has written to all fellow board members criticising the lack of diversity on the commission and saying the FA is letting down black players.

In her letter, she says she has tried to raise the issue privately but there has been a "refusal to understand" her position. Her decision to go public leaves Dyke and the FA facing a crisis over the commission.

The letter states: "I believe that the lack of proper consultation on the make up of the commission, the fact that no approval was sought from the board, releasing the names of the 'chosen' individuals at Leaders in Football, the composition of the commission itself and the lack of diversity, have all meant that the opportunity to lead an informed debate on the future of English players has been singularly damaged.

"I make the comments about diversity not because they are additional to this matter but because they lie at its heart."

Rabbatts' letter goes on to say it is "ironic" there is no representative from ethnic minority communities given that Andros Townsend, the Tottenham winger who played a key role in England's victories on Friday and Tuesday and then found himself at the centre of a race row this week, is himself black.

Rabbatts backs the FA's support for England boss Roy Hodgson after his dressing room joke about

a monkey in space but adds: "As the commission looks to address all of the complexities of its brief, it will crucially have to come to a view on nationality, race and identity.

"To have announced a list without anyone who can speak from experience and in an informed manner on those three areas has exposed the FA at a vital moment.

"What is required is not tokenism but the involvement of individuals who have direct and relevant experience of what it means to represent their country while coming from diverse cultural backgrounds.

"By proceeding along this current path we are not only failing to reflect our national game but we are also letting down so many black and ethnic minority people - players, ex-players, coaches and volunteers, who have so much to offer and are so often discouraged and disheartened by the attitudes they encounter. The FA should be leading by example not reinforcing entrenched attitudes."

Rabbatts, who is chair of the FA's inclusion committee, is not considering resigning from the board in protest and said she feels "sadness" at having to speak out.

The letter adds: "As a mixed race woman, an FA director required to bring an additional, independent view to the role and as someone who cares passionately about the future credibility of the FA on race, I have tried to emphasise in private the importance of this moment.

"The refusal to understand this, the lack of proper decision-making and accountability, and the disappointing composition of the commission means that public silence is no longer an option.

"My commitment is to continue to work with the FA on inclusion and all of the issues which confront us and I feel that this can only be done properly at this moment by contributing to the public debate about the purpose of the commission and how we can truly strengthen the FA and the England team and broaden the base of our talent pool in the important years ahead."

As well as Dyke, the commission will include former England manager Glenn Hoddle, Football League chairman Greg Clarke and FA vice-chairman Roger Burden, League Managers' Association chairman Howard Wilkinson, Professional Footballers' Association chairman Ritchie Humphreys, Crewe director of football Dario Gradi and former England defender Danny Mills.

Former England striker Gary Lineker has labelled the majority of the commission members "utterly pointless", while former national team defender Sol Campbell has questioned why there is no black representative.

The FA has stressed the line-up of commission members is not necessarily complete, and that many other people will also be consulted. However Dyke has said it will consist of no more than 10 members.

Rabbatts' letter in full:

Dear Colleagues,

This has been a week of spectacular highs with England qualifying for Brazil and desperate lows with the debacle of the "race storm'' around the manager.

It has also been an important time for the FA's image, reputation and credibility on the issue of race and the development of the 'flagship' FA Commission.

As you all know from my comments at the Board this week, I believe that the lack of proper consultation on the make up of the Commission, the fact that no approval was sought from the Board, releasing the names of the "chosen'' individuals at Leaders in Football, the composition of the Commission itself and the lack of diversity, have all meant that the opportunity to lead an informed debate on the future of English players has been singularly damaged.

I make the comments about diversity not because they are additional to this matter but because they lie at its heart.

Indeed, while England's victories on Friday and Tuesday are due to many factors no one would argue that a young Black player made a huge difference and a young man whose father has played a significant role in fighting racism in football. It is therefore particularly ironic that a Commission to look at the national team has been formed with absolutely no representation from the Black and Ethnic Minority communities, many of whom play such an important role at every level of our game.

As the Commission looks to address all of the complexities of its brief, it will crucially have to come to a view on nationality, race and identity. To have announced a list without anyone who can speak from experience and in an informed manner on those three areas has exposed the FA at a vital moment.

What is required is not tokenism but the involvement of individuals who have direct and relevant experience of what it means to represent their country while coming from diverse cultural backgrounds.

By proceeding along this current path we are not only failing to reflect our national game but we are also letting down so many Black and Ethnic Minority people - players, ex-players, coaches and volunteers, who have so much to offer and are so often discouraged and disheartened by the attitudes they encounter. The FA should be leading by example not reinforcing entrenched attitudes.

The key is not to consult when it suits but to involve the right people from the outset at the decision making table.

As I stated at the Board I have come under huge personal pressure from colleagues and friends to "speak out''. I have until now not done so and found it galling to listen to so-called Commissioners air their often ill-informed views on national TV and radio.

I have tried every means at my disposal to stress the importance of diversity for the effective work of the Commission and to express my concerns in private.

And during the storm over the manager I have totally supported the FA's position and Roy himself and knowing Roy as I do, I have huge respect for him and have no doubt he feels deep regret over the incident.

However, on the issue of the Commission, I have come to the conclusion that the FA's current position is not sustainable and my own personal integrity and values are being compromised.

Furthermore, if the work of the Inclusion Committee, which I have agreed to Chair, is to have any meaning I believe it is incumbent upon me to openly address the issue of the Commission, its formation, composition and likely effectiveness.I do this with some sadness but I feel I have been left with no choice and have accepted the responsibility to make my views known. It will be for others to judge the merits of my concerns and the way that the FA should now proceed in relation to the Commission.

As a mixed race woman, an FA Director required to bring an additional, independent view to the role and as someone who cares passionately about the future credibility of the FA on race, I have tried to emphasise in private the importance of this moment. The refusal to understand this, the lack of proper decision-making and accountability, and the disappointing composition of the Commission means that public silence is no longer an option.

My commitment is to continue to work with the FA on Inclusion and all of the issues which confront us and I feel that this can only be done properly at this moment by contributing to the public debate about the purpose of the Commission and how we can truly strengthen the FA and the England team and broaden the base of our talent pool in the important years ahead.

Yours Sincerely, Heather Rabbatts CBE


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