FA chairman: Chris Grant and Abu Nasir enter race to succeed Greg Clarke

Two ethnically diverse candidates enter race to succeed Greg Clarke as FA chair; Sport England Board Member Chris Grant is one of the most senior black administrators in British sport; British South Asian Abu Nasir is a former Liverpool FC Leadership Board member and Kick It Out ambassador

Image: At least two ethnically diverse candidates to enter race to succeed Greg Clarke

Sport England’s Chris Grant and former Liverpool FC Leadership Board member Abu Nasir will apply for the position of FA chair to succeed Greg Clarke who resigned last month.

The FA has appointed a seven-member panel tasked with identifying a replacement for Clarke, who left his role after referring to black footballers as "coloured" before a Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee.

He also said: "If you go to the IT department at the FA, there's a lot more South Asians than there are Afro-Caribbeans. They have different career interests." Clarke, who apologised and accepted his remarks were "unacceptable", also stepped down from his roles with UEFA and FIFA.

Sport England board member Chris Grant
Image: Sport England board member Chris Grant

Now 58-year-old Grant, and ex-Muslim Sports Council chair Nasir - who helped develop the Premier League's Elite Academy Manager programme - have entered the race to succeed Clarke, with applications for the role closing on January 8.

Grant told The Times: "I'm going public now because, whatever happens with this process, football and sport are too important not to try to make our best contribution.

"When football is at its best, it's a really positive force for good. Too often it's fragmented and working against itself. My vision is of a unified game.

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 8:   Administration Award winner Abu Nasir poses during the Second Annual Asian Football Awards at Wembley Stadium on October 8, 2013 in London, England.  (Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images for Asian Football Awards)  *** Local Caption *** Abu Nasir
Image: Abu Nasir was recognised at the 2013 Asian Football Awards at Wembley Stadium

"My vision is of football thriving but also contributing to thriving communities in these difficult times. I'm an optimist. I believe we can find the right balance."

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Grant, 58, is one of the most senior black administrators in British sport, and said the time had come for a "generational shift" in the leadership of sport.

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England manager Gareth Southgate will not endorse any one candidate to be the new FA Chairman but says the FA's Inclusion Advisory Board Chair Paul Elliott has shown a willingness to put in the hard work that such a role requires.

A talented player in his youth, Nasir is a Bedfordshire County FA member and ex-Kick It Out ambassador. The British-Bangladeshi is the founder chairman of grassroots team Luton Sporting Club.

He told Sky Sports News: "I think football needs something different, someone different, who can make a lot of changes. I had a lot of people in football encouraging me to apply because they feel there needs to be a change, and there needs to be someone who can unite people.

"There are a lot of challenges we face especially in the next few years - financially, around diversity and inclusion, as well as the commercial aspects of the game. I just feel I have the skills to bring something new."

Nasir's application provides a timely boost for Britain's South Asian community, whose relationship with football authorities appears to have become strained.

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Former Premier League striker Michael Chopra says he is surprised he has not been asked by football authorities to help inspire the next generation of South Asian footballers

Michael Chopra told Sky Sports News on Tuesday the Football Association and the Premier League must do more to encourage and create pathways for South Asians in the game.

That came a month after 21-year-old Swansea midfielder Yan Dhanda, whose father, like Chopra's is Punjabi, told Sky Sports News he felt South Asians in the game were "brushed under the carpet."

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Swansea midfielder Yan Dhanda told Sky Sports News in November British South Asians are consistently overlooked for important roles in football - Abu Nasir has since met his call and applied for role of FA chair

The FA has also since written back to non-League Sporting Bengal United after the East London side - who are rooted in the heart of London's East End Bangladeshi community and have a majority of Muslim players - requested talks about Islamophobia in the game.

Sporting Bengal United expressed their concern at a "lax and laissez-faire attitude to Islamophobia" in a letter seen exclusively by Sky Sports News after the FA National Game Board voted to give ex-Council member Brian Jones fellowship status and ticketing privileges at Wembley. The FA Board opposed this decision but were powerless to stop it.

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Former FA Race Equality advisory group chair Yunus Lunat talks about the problem of Islamophobia in football

Ex-Sheffield and Hallamshire County FA chair Jones stepped down from his role on the Council and banned from all football activity for 19 months and fined for sharing an offensive and discriminatory remark on social media in January last year, which was deemed Islamophobic by an independent panel.

There was better news for former Sporting Bengal player Taff Rahman on Wednesday after the former Tottenham and Arsenal Academy coach became the latest entrant to the Professional Player to Coach scheme.

Sporting Bengal taken in the late Nineties
Image: Sporting Bengal United chairman Aroz Miah (bottom left) kneeling next to Taff Rahman in the late Nineties

The joint Premier League and PFA funded initiative is open to all ethnically diverse PFA members and provides up to six coaches per season with a 23-month intensive work placement within an EFL club.

Speaking about his placement with Luton's Academy, former Arsenal and QPR youth team player Rahman said: "As we've seen, a system over time can become very monopolised, or catering for a certain demographic, or certain level of people.

Tottenham academy coach Taff Rahman
Image: Taff Rahman graduated with a League Managers Association Diploma in 2015

"And sometimes, others that are in the periphery get lost, or are not as included due to that invisible structuring.

"This scheme shows there is a drive to make some change within the game. It will definitely help in creating that pathway for black and Asian coaches. I hope it's a beacon of light.

"I'll definitely bring my experience of having been a player, going through my own journey that was very different, having to find my pathway as a young Asian player, going from a club to another. The scheme will definitely help me develop as a coach, but also as a person."

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