The hunt for who leaked details of Roy Hodgson's space-monkey joke has been called off because the Football Association believe a relative of a player rather than one of the team was responsible. With every player present having denied being upset by the joke, the FA and Hodgson wish to put the issue behind them. Talk about the joke was widespread in the players' lounge after the game at Wembley. Although the reporter whose byline was on the story claims to have spoken to a player directly, the FA are satisfied there is an alternative explanation for how the story was made public.
Former England international Alan Shearer backed that assessment but said he believed there were still concerns over dressing-room security. He said: "That's the most worrying thing about it, that whether it's come directly from a player or – what I would think – it's come indirectly. A player has mentioned it to someone else but there's been a breakdown in a player's particular circle [of] who he can trust. That's more worrying."
Andros Townsend, the player at the centre of the storm, has exonerated Hodgson from any suggestion there was a racist aspect to the joke and underlined his own belief that the subject was not a news story. Key players, notably Wayne Rooney, have also come out in support of the manager.
Townsend, who signed a new four-year deal with Spurs on Friday, will start at Villa Park today with Hodgson echoing the sentiment of Tottenham manager Andre Villas-Boas that the winger be allowed to develop at his own pace.
Hodgson, however, hit back at the criticism by Villas-Boas of Townsend's England selection. "When I picked him," said Hodgson, "I think his manager said I was wrong to pick him, and I should have called him, because he [Townsend] wasn't ready to play international football.
"Suddenly he's gone from that to a world hero in the same class as Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery. I think the lad needs a break and I think people need to accept that he is still a young man learning his trade. I want to protect him as well as I can and I am sure his club manager will want to do that too."
Villas-Boas made his comments when Hodgson called up Townsend in September ahead of the World Cup double-header against Moldova and Ukraine. At the time Townsend had just made his first Premier League start for Spurs.
The letters between Rabbatts and Dyke
An edited version of the exchange of letters:
This has been a week of spectacular highs with England qualifying for Brazil and desperate lows with the debacle of the "race storm" around the manager. It has also been an important time for the FA's image, reputation and credibility on the issue of race and the development of the "flagship" FA Commission. I believe that the lack of proper consultation on the make up of the Commission, the composition of the Commission itself and the lack of diversity, have all damaged the opportunity to lead an informed debate on the future of English players.
While England's victories are due to many factors no one would argue that a young Black player made a huge difference and a young man whose father has played a significant role in fighting racism in football. It is therefore particularly ironic that a Commission to look at the national team has been formed with absolutely no representation from the Black and Ethnic Minority communities.
The Commission will have to come to a view on nationality, race and identity. To have a list without anyone who can speak from experience on those three areas has exposed the FA at a vital moment. What is required is not tokenism but individuals who have direct and relevant experience. We are letting down so many Black and Ethnic Minority people who are so often discouraged by the attitudes they encounter. The FA should be leading by example not reinforcing entrenched attitudes. The key is not to consult when it suits but to involve the right people from the outset.
I have come under huge personal pressure to "speak out". I have found it galling to listen to so-called Commissioners air their often ill-informed views. I have come to the conclusion that the FA's current position is not sustainable and my own personal integrity is being compromised. As a mixed race woman and FA Director, I have tried to emphasise in private the importance of this moment. The refusal to understand this, and the disappointing composition of the Commission means that public silence is no longer an option.
Yours Sincerely, Heather Rabbatts CBE
I recognise your strength of feeling but am sorry that you felt you had to make your concerns public. As the instigator and organiser of the Commission, I was surprised by your comments as they seem to imply that we have a lack of understanding in the area of diversity. As you know I have long been a champion of inclusion and I think my credentials are pretty strong. I spent part of my early life in community relations; you were on the Board of the BBC when I, as Director General, described the organisation as "hideously white" [and] ensured more ethnic minorities were employed at the BBC.
Only two weeks ago, you and I discussed ways of making organisations take their responsibilities in this area more seriously – we agreed we want action not ineffectual policy papers on race – and in my brief time at The FA I have met both Herman Ouseley, the Chairman of Kick it Out, and Trevor Phillips, the former Chair of the Equalities Commission.
The make-up of the Commission has been moving for some time but I did explain to you that we planned to appoint additional members and would have done so this week had the Roy Hodgson [issue] not blown up. I do accept we made a mistake announcing only part of the membership of the Commission, but to suggest we never considered the ethnic balance is unfair. We originally had Clarke Carlisle as a member but the PFA decided they would rather have their new Chairman, and we also identified individuals from the BAME [Black, Asian and minority ethnic] community. Unfortunately, they felt the time commitments would be prohibitive. As you know, we still want people from the BAME community.
Heather, 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 to try and strengthen the England team, and to ensure that talented English kids, whatever their ethnicity or creed, are able to play at the highest level in English football, something which currently we are not sure is happening.
Yours Sincerely, Greg DykeReuse content