Greg Clarke’s embarrassing remarks to MPs have caused him to lose a second significant role within football after he stepped down from his position as a vice-president of Fifa.
Following a conversation between Clarke and the president of Uefa, Aleksander Ceferin, on Thursday, it was agreed that Clarke should resign his position as Europe’s representative on the Fifa council with immediate effect. A crucial post in footballing diplomacy, which commands an annual salary of £190,000, the Uefa-appointed vice-president is expected to form a bridge between the interests of Europe and their powerful domestic leagues, to the global concerns of the game’s governing body. Uefa will now be without a representative at the game’s top table until next spring, when Clarke’s replacement will be agreed.
As late as Wednesday night, Clarke had told the BBC that he had been asked to stay in his role until the spring in order to avoid such a vacuum. This position changed overnight, however, as the focus on Clarke’s position within Fifa grew sharper.
“Following a telephone call this morning between the Uefa President and Greg Clarke, they agreed with Greg Clarke’s proposal that he should step down with immediate effect from his position as a Uefa representative on the Fifa Council”, said a Uefa spokesperson.
The decision follows the scandal of Clarke’s humiliating performance in front of the digital, culture, media and sport committee on Tuesday. After answering MPs’ questions with remarks about “coloured players”, South Asians having “different career interests” and gay players coming out as being a “life choice”, Clarke’s position as chairman of the Football Association became untenable. He resigned from the FA on Tuesday evening and, on Wednesday, the England men’s manager Gareth Southgate described Clarke’s language as ‘unacceptable’ and said it “doesn’t reflect what we as a team stand for”.
The FA is now in the beginning of a process to recruit Clarke’s replacement, with an appointment not expected until next year. Uefa, meanwhile, will select a new Fifa representative at its congress in Switzerland next March. According to Uefa statute, Clarke’s replacement will come from one of the four home nations.
Elsewhere, the FA has also asked the government to allow England’s Nations League match against Iceland next Wednesday to be played at Wembley. The game has looked set to be held in another country, most likely Germany, as the Icelandic team are not currently allowed into the country due to coronavirus travel restrictions. The FA, however, has asked for an exemption to be extended to Iceland’s players, subject to “strict medical protocols” being applied.
Protocols suggested by the FA include an increase in Covid-19 testing and a restriction on movement for the Icelandic squad – meaning they could only travel from their hotel to Wembley.
“We are not asking for this support to help us have home advantage in this competitive international match, although of course that would be helpful,” read an FA statement. “We are not asking for this support to avoid a huge cost from playing an England home match in Germany, although we can ill afford the financial penalty at this time.
“The priority must be health, which is why we are asking for this support. We believe it’s in the better interests of the England team and support staff to play at Wembley Stadium rather than have international travel at this time – and then play the match under the same Uefa protocols against the same opposition, but in a different country.”
The government has yet to respond to the appeal.