PFA at war over all-white panel to pick Gordon Taylor's replacement

PFA at war over all-white panel to pick Gordon Taylor's replacement

PFA descends into civil war over ‘incomprehensible’ all-white panel to pick replacement for long-serving chief Gordon Taylor… with black players and coaches left ‘angry’ over the selection process

  • The selection process over the new PFA chief has sparked a civil war in the union
  • Black players and coaches are irked by the all-white panel running the process 
  • The matter has been taken up by the PFA’s equalities team via an explosive letter 
  • The selection panel chaired by Gary Neville was labelled ‘incomprehensible’ 

The PFA has descended into civil war over the crucial appointment of a replacement for long-serving chief executive Gordon Taylor.

Sportsmail reported last Saturday that black players and coaches are angry that an all-white panel is running the selection process, and it can now be revealed that the matter has been taken up by the PFA’s equalities team, who have accused the executive of undermining the fight for equality in football.

In an explosive letter to PFA chairman Ben Purkiss and the players’ management committee, the equalities team describe the composition of the selection panel chaired by Gary Neville as ‘incomprehensible’. 

The PFA is caught up in a civil war over the selection process to replace chief Gordon Taylor 

The former England defender was appointed last month to chair a panel also featuring PFA director Edward Canty and Oxford defender John Mousinho. They must recruit four independent non-executive directors, who will then lead the search for Taylor’s replacement.

Purkiss set in motion the process for dethroning Taylor, who has spent almost 40 years in charge, by calling for a review of the union’s governance in a powerful interview with Sportsmail in 2018.

An independent review by the legal dispute service Sport Resolutions was completed and delivered to the PFA last month, although it is yet to be published, with insiders who have read it telling Sportsmail that it will be damaging for the union. 

The selection panel, which is chaired by Gary Neville, has been labelled as ‘incomprehensible’

PFA sources insist that the equalities team have been asked to provide input by the selection panel into the appointment of four new directors, but that does not appear to have mollified them.

The panel was appointed on the recommendation of Naomi Ellenbogen QC, who chaired Sport Resolutions’ independent review.

The appointments were made independently of the PFA, but it is understood that the union have since gone back to Sport Resolutions to clarify the reasons for the selections, and to ask whether diversity was considered.

A letter sent by the equalities team, which includes former players such as Jason Lee and Iffy Onuora, reads: ‘Given our commitment as a union to increasing diversity within the decision-making bodies of football it is inconceivable that at the very outset of a process aimed to select the first PFA CEO in almost 40 years, adequate consideration has not been given to the composition of the selection panel.  

PFA chairman Ben Purkiss began the process of dethroning Taylor (above), calling for a review

The selection panel had been appointed on the recommendation of Naomi Ellenbogen QC

‘It is therefore difficult to comprehend the decision to approve a panel conspicuously absent of both female and BAME representation which is unrepresentative of the wider membership of the Association.’

The equalities team also make the point that an all-white selection panel has been appointed despite the fact that several management committee members have received diversity training, funded by the PFA.

In another long-running grievance they go on to highlight the lack of diversity on the PFA’s 13-strong management committee, with Manchester United’s third-choice goalkeeper Lee Grant the only black member.

‘This is particularly disappointing given that key members of the current management committee are beneficiaries of a PFA funded governance programme (‘On the Board’) specifically aimed at increasing diversity and BAME visibility within key decision-making areas throughout the game,’ the letter continues.

Manchester United’s Lee Grant is the only black member of the PFA’s management committee

‘Consider this, if the composition of the management committee was more diverse would it approve the proposed composition of the selection panel? The PFA equalities team and other members of the workforce feel this matter undermines our explicit commitment to embed equality into all aspects of the union.

‘We ask hard questions of the governing bodies and their commitment to under-representation, but it is difficult to call out others when our own processes and protocols render themselves liable to criticism.’

The PFA insist they are committed to running a robust and transparent process to find Taylor’s successor, with diversity at its heart. They have also pledged to publish the ‘key findings’ of the independent review, but have yet to give a date for publication or commit to publishing the entire report.  

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