England cricket captain Heather Knight believes Greg Clarke’s recent remarks about female footballers highlights there are “still of lot issues” regarding views on women in sport.
Clarke resigned from his role as FA chairman on Tuesday after referring to black footballers as “coloured” while giving evidence to a Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee meeting.
Clarke was also criticised for his comments about a coach telling him there was a lack of women’s goalkeepers because girls do not like the ball being kicked hard at them, and he has since left his role as FIFA vice-president, admitting it was “better for football” that he stepped down.
Knight said the comments prove there is still “progress” to make regarding perceptions of women in sport, although the 29-year-old admitted a lot has changed during her England career.
Knight told Sky Sports News: “To have someone so high up in football to say that is not a great place to be. There’s a lot going on at the moment in terms of women’s football academies not being able to train whereas the boys’ academies are [under UK coronavirus restrictions].
“It highlights that there are still a lot of issues to be a girl in sport. It’s not a problem purely for football, there are lots of examples from other sports where girls don’t get the same opportunities as guys.
“I think it highlights there’s still a lot of work to do in that area and still a lot of changes that need to be made.
“When I was growing up [cricket] was very much a male-dominated sport. I played men’s cricket down in Devon and you had to have a thick skin sometimes [due to] the comments you got.
“Luckily a lot of that has changed. I think perceptions to women in cricket and in sport in general is miles away from where they were while I was growing up.
“It has become a lot more normal to become a woman in sport, and a lot easier for young girls to aspire to be that and to emulate the people they are now seeing a lot more in the media, obviously with women’s sport being a lot more visible.
“I think we’ve still got progress to make, but in terms of my career playing for England for the last 10 years, it’s changed massively.”
On Tuesday, Clarke used the phrase “high-profile coloured footballers” when answering a question around the difficulty of gay players in the men’s game coming out because of social media backlash during a Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee meeting.
The former FA chairman said: “If I look at what happens to high-profile female footballers, to high-profile coloured footballers, and the abuse they take on social media… social media is a free-for-all.”
A few minutes later, DCMS committee member Kevin Brennan MP asked Clarke if he wished to withdraw the use of the outdated word “coloured”.
“If I said it, I deeply apologise for it,” Clarke replied. “Secondly, I am a product of having worked overseas, I worked in the USA for many years, where I was required to use the term ‘people of colour’ sometimes because that was the product of their diversity legislation and positive discrimination format. Sometimes I trip over my words.”
After his resignation was confirmed, Clarke said he “put the interests of football first” when making the decision to step down – something he had been “actively considering for some time” – and apologised again for his comments.
His resignation statement read: “My unacceptable words in front of Parliament were a disservice to our game and to those who watch, play, referee and administer it. This has crystallised my resolve to move on.
“I am deeply saddened that I have offended those diverse communities in football that I and others worked so hard to include.
“I would like to thank my friends and colleagues in the game for the wisdom and counsel they have shared over the years and resign from the FA with immediate effect.”
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