Greg Dyke's attempts to create a commission to improve the England national football team descended into acrimony and farce last night as he was forced to admit he had been wrong to omit an ethnic minority representative from its initial members.
The Football Association chairman yesterday came under attack from Heather Rabbatts, his fellow FA board member, and the new sport and equalities minister, Helen Grant, over the all-white, all-male commission members announced so far. His indignant response to Rabbatts, in a letter which he made public, revealed the governing body to be in a state of open strife on the issue as it lurches from one ethnicity crisis to another.
Dyke described Rabbatts' criticism of him as "unfair" and expressed his clear displeasure with the fact she had chosen to go public. He also blamed this week's Roy Hodgson "monkey" controversy for the fact that ethnic representatives have not been named for the commission, to date.
Rather than apologise for any impression that the ethnicity had been overlooked, Dyke told Rabbatts – who was born in Jamaica and is of mixed race: "I'm sorry if this has been a difficult issue for you."
But the Independent on Sunday understands that one of the most articulate voices for black players – the Reading striker Jason Roberts – has not even been sounded out by the Football Association about joining the Commission. Roberts and other black representatives in the game are understood to feel that any ethnic member named now would feel like a tokenistic presence on the body.
Dyke's decision to name eight initial members of the commission without having a woman or ethnic representation in place does seem to have been extremely naive and reflects the rushed way Dyke has gone about forming the body. The governing body is expected to include a black and minority ethnic (BME) name when it announces two more members on Wednesday, but the whole project is already deeply undermined.
The chairman is coming under pressure to rip up the initial list and reconstitute the commission, after widespread criticism for the lack of ambition displayed in the make-up of a group which includes former defender Danny Mills, FA vice chairman Roger Burden and Football League chairman Greg Clarke. Grant said yesterday she will seek an explanation this week from Dyke and considers his list unacceptable.
In a letter to all FA board members which began yesterday's war of words, Rabbatts said she had tried to raise her concerns about ethnic representation privately and that there had been a "refusal to understand" her position.
But Dyke flatly rejected that, telling her: "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.Only two weeks ago you and I discussed ways of making organisations take their responsibilities in this area [of ethnicity] more seriously. 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."
Dyke blamed the absence of Clarke Carlisle from the commission on his departure from the position of Professional Footballers' Association chairman and told Rabbatts he had already met Herman Ouseley, chairman of the Kick it Out organisation, and Trevor Phillips, the former chairman of the Equalities Commission.
But Ouseley said he had raised the issue with Dyke and questioned why he had not used Rabbatts' contacts and experience to bring on a suitable representative.