On the Gary Neville Podcast, the Sky Sports pundit explains why he took to Instagram to call out what he saw as 'xenophobia' and 'negative undertones' in the reaction to Maheta Molango's appointment as PFA chief executive.
Sunday 4 April 2021 09:38, UK
Last week, Gary Neville took to Instagram to call out what he saw as 'xenophobia' and 'negative undertones' in the reaction to Maheta Molango's appointment as PFA chief executive.
Swiss-born Molango, who played briefly for Brighton and Lincoln City, is trained as a lawyer and is the former chief executive of Real Mallorca. He is set to replace Gordon Taylor as chief executive of the PFA.
However, following the news, Neville described coverage of Molango's selection as "disparaging".
"It's clear that football is resisting this appointment through feeding journalists with negative information about the candidate - what he can't do, why he shouldn't be there, the process is wrong," Neville said on Instagram.
On the latest Gary Neville podcast, he explained why he felt he had to speak out...
"I thought it was an awful reaction. I saw it when it first broke and thought there was a bit of the language I didn't like, it was a bit derogatory, a little bit disparaging, almost like 'who is this guy, how's he got the job?'
I thought it was an awful reaction. I saw it when it first broke and thought there was a bit of the language I didn't like, it was a bit derogatory, a little bit disparaging, almost like 'who is this guy, how's he got the job?'
"And then it seemed to go on for another day and I thought it was a bit of a concerted attack. I thought, 'do they know Maheta?' I've never met Maheta in my life. I don't know who he is. Surely the British media don't know him. They're ringing up people in Spain or they're speaking to people within in the PFA who obviously don't want to give a glowing recommendation and it got to the fourth or fifth day and I thought, 'enough is enough. It's just not right, this'.
"The PFA is a really strong union, and it needs the players to re-engage with it. When I was a member of the management committee, I was 22 years of age at Man Utd, one of the youngest players in the team, but I'd demonstrated leadership qualities in the youth teams and at the time. Brian McClair was the PFA rep and he was leaving the club. Brian said to me, 'I'd like you to be the union rep'.
"In the youth teams I'd been the foreman standing up for the players, with Eric Harrison and Nobby Stiles. I took the job on and I went onto the management committee of the PFA and there were times in the early 2000s where we had to threaten to go on strike to protect the players' rights, and that wasn't a time when we're talking about players on £200k per week.
"We're talking about players who get kicked out of the game. There is a massive amount of young players who get kicked out of the game and the PFA funds their education, their wellbeing, the mental health support that they need from their dream being shattered. And then you've got the players who are 55, 65, 70 years old who have hip operations or life-saving operations, or have needs in other ways and the PFA is there to support its members. Its important football does that and the PFA do that.
"Then you think about the last 5-10 years, where the money has got to a really high level, and there's less love for the players in that sense. But we should still think about the players who need what the union want in the game, who need that support. To me, Gordon Taylor has been a great servant for the game, a great servant for the PFA.
I've not seen a quote from any of the executives of the PFA saying, 'we welcome Maheta to England, we welcome him to come and look after the PFA'. I've not seen any of the players out on this pitch or any other pitch in this country [welcome him]. Where are you all?
"We've got to, surely, as members and ex-members, welcome him… it's difficult enough as it is following someone who has been there for a long time but I've not seen anyone quoted from the PFA. I've not seen a quote from any of the executives of the PFA saying, 'we welcome Maheta to England, we welcome him to come and look after the PFA, we welcome him to come and look after our union'. I've not seen any of the players out on this pitch or any other pitch in this country [welcome him]. Where are you all?
"The media are absolutely blasting your new guy, the guy who's going to come in and take the union forward in the middle of a difficult time, in the middle of a pandemic when there's been charity commission investigations, there's been an independent review with what would be recommendations to come out of it, and football players should pull together.
"So for me, I just felt I needed to speak out about it the other day. I felt passionate about it. I've always been someone who's supported the PFA. I'm a club owner now so you could argue I'm in direct conflict with players at times but I still feel like a player, I still speak like a player, and everything I look at on the pitch as a player.
"But I was really disappointed with the reaction of it, I was disappointed no one in the PFA stood up to say, 'let's stop this, come on, we pull together, there's got to be a smooth transition out of Gordon's reign, to a new dawn for the PFA'. I just didn't think it was right.
"And definitely an element of, 'what's this guy doing here? Who's this?' Xenophobia, disparaging, unsavoury, and enough is enough.
"He's got to do the job correctly, when he comes over there will be an element of pressure. But at least let him start first, and I didn't feel that was fair and right.
"I hope Maheta has a really good introduction, I hope he's looked after internally, I hope he's supported by the members - I hope he's validated by the members first - and I hope he's supported by all the members, the Premier League players, the Championship players, the League One and Two players because it's needed.
"There needs to be a strong union. Because for every player that's Harry Kane or Jack Grealish, there are 50, 60, 70 kids who aren't in that position, who really do need the support to get through their lives, who have put all their eggs in one basket to be a football player."
Sky Sports has contacted the PFA for comment.