UEFA’s stance on Clarke shows alarming issues with discrimination at the top

Greg Clarke deserves to be vilified after managing to offend women and black, Asian and gay people in one fell swoop. It takes some doing that.

But in the aftermath of his car crash appearance before MPs, we were reminded of something even more alarming and depressing – that discrimination in football goes right to the top.

According to Clarke, it took him more than 48 hours to convince Uefa president Aleksander Ceferin that stepping down from his Uefa and Fifa roles as well the FA chairmanship was the only thing to do in light of what had happened.

It's claimed Ceferin, however, was keen for Clarke to stay on until March in order to protect Uefa voting rights at Fifa.

Never mind the fact Clarke had brought shame on the game he was supposed to protect and grow, all that mattered was not allowing the incident to weaken Uefa's position in their on-going power struggle with Fifa.

What a scandalous indictment of those who control the greatest game on earth, not least because as recently as August Ceferin himself insisted seeing players start taking a knee in support of the 'Black Lives Matter' movement had been a wake-up call to his organisation.

Just over 12 months ago Clarke sat in front of the media in Sofia's Vasil Levski Stadium to address the sickening racist abuse Bulgarian fans had inflicted on Gareth Southgate's England stars.

Clarke said he wanted a review from Uefa and that he knew European football's governing body "took the issue of discrimination seriously". I'm not joking, he was actually being serious.

Having confidence in an organisation like Uefa, that has done little or nothing to tackle racism, is the equivalent of believing Donald Trump will leave the White House with grace and dignity.

We keep kidding ourselves that the battle to beat discrimination is being won – but it isn't. And it never will be with archaic figures like Clarke in positions of power and those above even him talking a good game, without actually delivering one.

The one good thing to come out of this unholy mess is that it gives the FA a wonderful chance to transport itself into the modern world, to embrace the diversity and culture it attempts to drive with genuine actions instead of just hollow words.

To break with depressing tradition, buck the status quo and appoint a new leader who isn't a middle class white man dressed in a pinstriped suit with a background in sales, marketing and arrogance.

Forget about the Bert Millichips and Keith Wisemans of this world and look to those with authority, presence and blue sky thinking.We need dynamism, not dinosaurs.

Chief executive Mark Bullingham needs to be brave, bold and seize the moment, otherwise those who govern the English game will find themselves on the same tragic roundabout it has spent far too long on.

One current club chairman, who sat on the FA board for five years, told me: "The FA is like a machine that doesn't want to be modernised, like a person who doesn't want rehabilitating. It needs new energy and a more modern way of thinking."

So will the shortlist of candidates reflect the diversity we pine for? Who knows. We can live in hope, but Bullingham has to get it right because it won't just define the future of the FA, it will come to define him too.

Augusta finally takes step in right direction

A lot has been different about the Masters this year.

It has taken place in November instead of April, there have been no 'patrons', traffic, ticket touts or John Daley setting up shop outside Hooters on Washington Road to sell his merchandise.

The wondrous Augusta National has been less colourful and the sound of birdsong instead of roars and groans has been quite eerie.

But the most significant change of all had nothing to do with all the upheaval caused by Covid-19.

It took place on the first tee on Thursday when Lee Elder joined Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player in hitting the ceremonial tee shots to get the tournament started, becoming the first black man to have the privilege.

Elder became the first African-American to qualify for the Masters in 1975. With his invitation came death threats, because black men were not welcome at Augusta.

Yet 45 years later here was the same man, standing proudly on the first tee alongside two legends of the game, being recognised for what he stood for and achieved.

Just imagine what some of Augusta chairman Fred Ridley's predecessors would have thought of this?

The symbolic gesture was a reaction to events of 2020 and the growth of the BLM movement in the wake of the death of George Floyd.

When it comes to addressing racism and inequality, it has to be said that one of the most exclusive clubs in sport has failed miserably for too long and too often.

But it seems the wheels of change have started to turn, so let's hope this step in the right direction proves significant.

GOOD WEEK FOR

Dominic Calvert-Lewin – The England and Everton star just cannot stop scoring.

Steve Clarke – The Scotland boss has led his nation to their first major tournament in 22 years. He might not smile much himself, but he's made thousands of others do just this.

Chris Nikic – The Floridian, 21, has become the world's first athlete with Down Syndrome to complete the Ironman triathlon. Brilliant stuff.

BAD WEEK FOR

Jurgen Klopp – The Liverpool boss has lost Joe Gomez and Trent Alexander-Arnold to injuries, then seen Mo Salah test positive for Covid-19. It never rains and all that…..

Bryson DeChambeau – The big-hitting American thought he could bludgeon his way round Augusta on a stroll to a Green Jacket. Think again. Perhaps he should start showing the place a little more respect.

Ryan Atkins – The Super League veteran has been banned from the game for three months after admitting he placed a bet on former club Wakefield to breach Rugby Football League rules.

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