Minister airs commission concerns

Sports minister Helen Grant will speak to the FA about the all-white, all-male commission appointed to improve England.

Last Updated: 19/10/13 at 12:48 Post Comment

Helen Grant: Sports minister

Helen Grant: Sports minister

The new sports minister Helen Grant will speak to the Football Association next week to express concerns about the all-white, all-male commission appointed to improve the England team.

FA chairman Greg Dyke's plans for the commission have been plunged into crisis after FA board member Heather Rabbatts launched a stinging criticism about the lack of even a single representative from an ethnic minority.

The FA has been accused of making "a big mistake" and a "public relations disaster" by football's two most important anti-discrimination organisations, Kick It Out and the European body Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE).

Now Grant, who is also equalities minister, has said she will raise the issue.

Grant said: "Sports governing bodies must reflect the make-up of the diverse society that we live in. I expect the FA to ensure that voices from all backgrounds are heard loud and clear and contribute to this important piece of work to help strengthen English football. I will discuss the issue with the FA next week."

Kick It Out chairman Lord Herman Ouseley said he had already raised the issue with Dyke, who has said he may appoint two more people to the commission, and questioned why he had not used Rabbatts' contacts and experience to bring on a suitable representative.

Ouseley told Press Association Sport: "This has been a disaster for the FA in public relations terms.

"Heather must have been at her wits' end to go public like this.

"I raised this with the FA chairman as soon as he made the announcement and he told me he was conscious it was an all-white, all-male membership and that he was trying hard to get an ethnic minority representative.

"I find it very surprising therefore that someone as close to the chairman as Heather Rabbatts, with all her experience and contacts, was not asked for her advice on ensuring diversity."

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.

In her letter she says she has tried to raise the issue privately but there has been a "refusal to understand" her position.

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.

"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.

FARE executive director Piara Powar said the FA's lack of action now made it open to accusations of tokenism if an ethnic minority representative is now appointed.

Powar told Press Association Sport: "I think they have made a big mistake.

"There has been a big debate among black players and the ethnic minority communities about the lack of diversity on the commission.

"If they appoint someone on to the commission now it very much looks like tokenism.

"If an FA board member such as Heather Rabbatts cannot make headway with the FA on this, then who can?"

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.


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