The FA need to pick a brave new leader and not just tick a box after Greg Clarke embarrassment, says Marvin Sordell

The FA need to pick a brave new leader and not just tick a box after Greg Clarke embarrassment, says Marvin Sordell

THE IDEA that Greg Clarke’s derogatory comments were a ‘mistake’ sits extremely uneasily with Marvin Sordell.

Ex-Premier League player Sordell’s battles with mental health saw him overcome by crippling depression, which culminated in a suicide attempt back in 2013. 

It led to the decision to retire from the game aged just 28. 

But his work and words off the field since then have seen him develop into one of the most important, inspiring and influential voices in the game today.

As such, he has recently joined the FA Inclusion Advisory Board that looks to improve diversity within the sport, and indeed society, and has sat in on Zoom meetings with Clarke amid others.

Sordell doesn’t know Clarke personally, but from his numerous experiences of being racially and verbally targeted throughout his footballing career, he knows the difference between slips of the tongue and preconceived notions.

And with Clarke, who insulted black, female and gay players within one sitting with MPs this week, Sordell believes it is just the tip of the iceberg.

Sordell said: “I find it hard to say that Clarke’s comments were a ‘mistake’.

“Those are the words that came to his mind and that’s obviously what he thinks.

“People have these preconceived notions about demographics and want to label them as this or that and that’s just as bad as using specific terminology. 

“Some will focus on the certain words he used and argue they are not in themselves derogatory.

“But if you are making someone feel like a lesser person or that they are capable of less, then that is just as damaging.

“This isn’t just one person, though. It is a collective mindset of people at that level and that’s something that reflects across society.

“If that collective still feel the same as the person that has just left then it doesn’t really make a difference.”

The search to find Clarke’s replacement will be met with severe scrutiny, with many rightly seeing this as a chance to not only fill a hole, but to enforce a trickle-down effect throughout the entire FA.

Sordell continued: “His replacement, whether they are male, female, black, white, Asian – the demographic doesn’t matter – needs to be brave enough to be a leader.

“They will need to challenge and question those around them and steer the ship in the right direction. They need to have the want and the desire to lead in the right way, such as with racism that still exists within football.

“Has the Black Lives Matter campaign had an impact? What was the intended impact? Players are still being abused on social media.

“At the moment we are wanting to try and fix racism with one stroke of a brush, but that is not possible.

“It is something that has happened for hundreds of years now and it cannot just be stopped dead with a couple of weeks of campaigning. It is about educating more than anything else. 

“Seeing the players take the knee before kick-off in every game was a very strong message, but if they continue to do it now, will it still have the same impact? Have we moved on anywhere? Where are we now?

“What I do know is that players are still getting abused.”

Sordell added: “I know myself and other members of ethnic minority groups will see a lot of names of people from our communities chucked into the hat for the role, and a lot of people will question that.

“I have had a few meetings with the Inclusion Advisory board talking about the diversity code and what the FA are doing to move things forward. It has been difficult to see progress so far with the impacts of Covid.

“But I don’t want someone to be appointed to make me happy or tick a box. That isn’t going to help. As long as they are very strong, assured and clear in their objectives then that is a step forward.

“If someone like that doesn’t come in, then Clarke may as well have not resigned.”

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