Belfast Telegraph

Dyke admits commission mistake

Football Association chairman Greg Dyke has written to board member Heather Rabbatts to assure her he intends to add to the commission he set up to improve the fortunes of the England team after she criticised it for being all-white.

Dyke accepted he had "made a mistake" by only announcing some of the names on his commission at the Leaders In Football Conference earlier this month, with the eight on the list confirmed at that time being male and white, leading to Rabbatts' criticism.

Dyke wrote in a letter seen by Press Association Sport: "The make-up of the commission has been moving for some time but I did explain to you and the board that we planned to appoint two or three additional members and would have done so this week had the issue of Roy Hodgson's dressing room comments not blown up.

"I do accept we made a mistake announcing only part of the membership of the commission when we did, but to suggest we never considered the ethnic balance of the commission is unfair."

Dyke continued: "We originally had Clarke Carlisle as a member but the PFA decided they would rather have their new chairman (Ritchie Humphreys) on the commission, and we also identified other individuals from the BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) community who we felt would add strength and value to the commission.

"Unfortunately as they are active in football on a day-to-day basis either they felt the time commitments would be prohibitive. As you know we still want to see people with relevant experience from the BAME community on the commission and giving evidence to it."

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 from Rabbatts 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."

As well as Dyke and Humphreys, the commission also currently includes former England manager Glenn Hoddle, Football League chairman Greg Clarke and FA vice-chairman Roger Burden, League Managers' Association chairman Howard Wilkinson, Crewe director of football Dario Gradi and former England defender Danny Mills.

Dyke defended his record on inclusion, adding in his response: "As the instigator and organiser of the commission, I was surprised by your comments as they seem to imply that somehow we have got to where we are because of a lack of understanding in the area of diversity.

"As you know I have long been a champion of inclusion in society and I think my credentials in this area are pretty strong.

"I spent part of my early life working in community relations; you were on the board of the BBC when I, as director general, described the organisation as "hideously white" for which I received great press criticism; you were also on the board when I introduced a comprehensive plan to ensure more ethnic minorities were employed at all levels at the BBC - something we achieved.

"Only two weeks ago you and I discussed ways of making organisations take their responsibilities in this area more seriously - we both agreed we want action not ineffectual policy papers on race - and in my brief time at the FA I have met with both Herman Ouseley, the chairman of Kick it Out, and Trevor Phillips, the former chair of the Equalities Commission, to discuss overall policy in this area.

"It is an area I have long cared about.

"Heather we go back a long way, we've been friends for a long time and I'm sorry if this has been a difficult issue for you but, as you know, the aim of the commission is two-fold.

"The first is to try to strengthen the England team going forward.

"The second is to ensure that talented English kids, whatever their ethnicity or creed, are able to fulfil their potential to play at the highest level in English football, something which currently we are not sure is happening.

"If we can make some progress towards achieving both these aims it will have done a good job."

Kick It Out chairman Lord Ouseley had earlier described the setting up of the commission as "a disaster for the FA in public relations terms" and said Rabbatts must have been "at her wits' end" to go public.

New sports minister Helen Grant will speak to the FA next week to express her concerns about the commission.

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."

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