The English Football Association is nothing if not consistent. The own-goals keep coming.
The FA has recently appointed, as chairman, one Greg Clarke. He takes over a grand office that is normally occupied by the congenitally ineffectual or the socially puerile, in a job that involves guiding an organisation that would be unfit for purpose – whatever the purpose, even if, one of these days, one should magically be revealed.
This is not to suggest that Clarke himself is possessed of the same blinkered and distorted vision of the world traditionally displayed by his predecessors, or for that matter his present peers. But to quote an old saw, in the land of the blind the one-eyed man is king. Clarke presides over the organisation that recently – and apparently with Clarke’s knowledge, if not personal approval – hired one Sam Allardyce, a renowned money-grubbing chancer, as manager of the English national team. Mr. Allardyce lasted in the job for a matter of weeks, or more specifically, one match. The job should be re-titled Manager, Revolving Door, since Mr. Allardyce probably stumbled over the bodies of several of his own predecessors as he emerged from it.
This organisation is the same one that regularly turns a myopic eye – which unlike Nelson’s is perfectly functional but has evidently become detached from the brain – from the corruption, racism, homophobia and violence on field and terrace that are rife within a sport that disgraces itself, and with all hands safe, on a weekly basis.
The FA talks a good game, of course, with headline-grabbing slogans such as ‘kick racism out of football’, but the ‘suits’ of the institution are as incapable of implementing needed reforms as a cabal of devil worshippers would be if charged with organising a Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica. Come to think of it …. But let us not.
Mr. Clarke, to be fair, has not yet been in the job long enough to have made a complete idiot of himself, and so must be given the benefit of any doubts about his suitability for the job. But, sadly, this does not appear to be a case of ‘so far so good’, for even as I prepared to write the previous sentence, there came the inevitable confidence-sapping news – of the kind that usually follows any new appointment by the FA – that Mr. Clarke does not believe the world of football is yet ready for gay players to come out.
He was reacting, and without obvious irony, to a poll of football fans by the British Broadcasting Corporation, which found that 92 per cent of them would be perfectly happy to watch gay players. In that figure alone lies a scintilla of hope for our western civilisation, for in the strange, machismo-driven, psychologically disordered realm of football, acceptance of homosexuality is a leap forward akin (sticking with the religious theme) of the Catholic Church condemning the burning of heretics.
So what, in the face of this evidence, does Mr. Clarke do to push a progressive social agenda to the next stage? He offers, in the national press, the opinion that football is ‘not quite ready’. It might be in ‘a year or two’, he adds chirpily.
But why a ‘year or two’? Why not a week or two? Or a decade or two?
‘Never’ would make more sense, just so long as he resigned immediately after saying it. And at least we would all know where he stood on the issue, even if it was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
I suppose we shall just have to wait – as usual – for the FA to catch up with the rest of us in the civilised world. The trouble with that proposition is that the FA never does catch up. Perhaps, deep down and secretly, the people at the FA hope a misguided world will fall back to their level, and then they can justify doing nothing.
Mr. Clarke may not turn out to be a social Neanderthal, after all, but right now he is doing a passable impression of one.