Greg Clarke gave speech at LGBT History Month reception at Wembley

Wednesday 21 Feb 2018
FA Chairman Greg Clarke

FA Chairman Greg Clarke gave an introductory speech at the LGBT History Month reception evening at Wembley Stadium:

"Good evening and thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak with you and answer your questions.

"In January of this year I announced fundamental changes within The FA that will accelerate inclusion.

"'For All' is an empty slogan unless the game is played, managed and administered by people of all ethnicities, faiths, ages, genders, gender alignments or sexual orientation. My fundamental belief is the game is for everyone.

"I am particularly proud of the work done by a number of organisations on wider inclusion of LGBT people and tacking homophobia, transphobia and bi-phobia. The purpose of this evening is to thank you for the work you are doing.

"We saw this last November in widespread support for Stonewall’s Rainbow Laces campaign. Martin Glenn and I were proud to be pictured wearing Rainbow badges at the World Cup draw in Moscow.

"I went to the Stonewall LGBT conference in Manchester last year and went to see Stonewall FC play in Barnes and enjoyed a beer in the local pub with them to learn more about their club. Fan’s organisations such as the Gay Gooners and Proud Lilywhites exemplify inclusion on the terraces. At The FA we aspire to be an employer of choice for the LGBT community.

"I’d like to thank Pride in Football with 35 affiliated fan groups in the professional game.

"A commitment to inclusion requires transparency and accountability. Paul Elliott chairs our Inclusion Advisory Board at The FA and attends FA Board meetings and they rigorously hold us to account.

"However, on occasions such as this I feel it is a good opportunity to clarify some of the more difficult challenges we face. Also to take questions and give answers.

"Since I became Chairman 18 months ago I have spent a lot of time travelling and building relationships in the game. The FA has previously been described as aloof and stand offish by other footballing nations.

"My job has been to build understanding by meeting other FAs and learn from them and in return offer to help where we can. This has been mischaracterised as a charm offensive to win the right to host a future men’s senior World Cup tournament. This is misleading.

"We may or may not bid for such a tournament and I assure you no decision on this has been made by the FA Board. We are, however, bidding for the Women’s Euros in 2021 as part of our plans to grow the women’s game.

"The real objective is to build relationships across the game and play our part in promoting internationally integrity, inclusion and transparency – the great social values football can bring.

"Let me give you a couple of examples. Firstly Qatar.

"I had just joined the Football League as Chairman in 2010 when I was asked to join the delegation to the FIFA Congress which would chose the World Cup hosts for 2018 and 2022. I think it would be fair to say that the 2022 winners Qatar was a controversial choice.

"Speculation was rife concerning impropriety in the voting and questions were asked about both migrant work rights and the rights of the LGBT community.

"When I took over as FA Chair in 2016 no evidence had emerged of financial impropriety. However, a campaign led by Amnesty International, Kick it Out and the International Labour Organisation had gained traction in Qatar and was achieving substantial improvement in conditions and welfare for migrant workers.

"Given the willingness of the Qataris to engage and the lack of any evidence of financial impropriety I decided to have a number of meetings with senior Qataris in London to explore issues of inclusion and workers' welfare.

"I agreed to visit Qatar and sign an MOU to carry on trying to encourage progressive change. A senior Qatari delegation had visited our Parklife grassroots football facility in Sheffield. They wanted to grow their grassroots game post 2022 and we have agreed to help. That means participation in its most inclusive form.

"We are building relationships with the Qataris and my aspiration is to ensure that fans attending the 2022 World Cup feel safe and welcome irrespective of gender, ethnicity, faith or sexual orientation.

"We all know the challenges and the difficulties involved. However, we made the choice that engagement offered more hope for progress than hostility from a distance.

"I think there is a chance we may be able to find accommodations that make 2022 an inclusive event for fans with a real social legacy. We are working with other progressive elements in international football to achieve this. I can’t promise we will succeed but I think our chances are better than if we disengage and broadcast hostility.

"I also visited Jordan last week as a guest of Prince Ali. Jordan is a beacon in the Middle East for its commitment to women’s football. It also hosts around a million Syrian refugees. I visited the Za’atari refugee camp on the Syrian/Jordan border and viewed a girls' football training session on a sports facility paid for by UEFA. We intend to work with the Jordan FA to help promote women’s football and help refugees.

"International relationship building in football is not just about winning tournaments. Neither Qatar nor Jordan will have a vote in handing out UEFA tournaments or in selecting UEFA's candidate for global tournaments. However if we are going to drive a progressive agenda of inclusion for women, for the LGBT community, for disabled football, we need to build and use our influence. The FA is committed to Inclusion For All not just those who play, watch, referee or volunteer in England.

"But back to the here and now, and some of the continued work we’re doing around LGBT inclusion. We will continue to work with campaign groups, support County FAs, sanction offenders and educate those who fall foul of our rules and regulations.

"Homophobia has a damaging effect to our game. But I’m heartened that the some of the solutions to the issue can come from inside this very room.

"Here’s to a healthy debate and a great evening.

"Thank you."

By FA Staff