Mixed race ex-FA chief REJECTED for role of picking Taylor's successor

Mixed race ex-FA Board member Dame Heather Rabbatts claims she was REJECTED from panel looking for Gordon Taylor’s PFA successor ‘for being too urban’… and she wasn’t put in front of selection committee of three white men that includes Gary Neville

  • Dame Heather Rabbatts didn’t even get an interview after applying for PFA role
  • She applied to be one of four directors who will pick Gordon Taylor’s successor 
  • But Rabbatts’ application was rejected by headhunting firm Odgers Berndtson
  • Odgers deny Rabbatt’s claims and say it was because of ‘conflicts of interests’
  • Rabbatts spent five years as the only woman and person of colour on FA board
  • Gary Neville is chair of a panel charged with recruiting the PFA’s new directors

Former FA Board member Dame Heather Rabbatts has been rejected for the crucial PFA role of picking Gordon Taylor’s successor as chief executive amid hotly contested claims she was considered ‘too urban.’

Sportsmail has learned that the former Millwall director, who spent five years as the only woman and only person of colour on the FA Board before standing down three years ago, applied to become one of the four new independent non-executive directors of the PFA who will appoint Taylor’s replacement after 38 years, but did not make a 40-strong shortlist of candidates.

Rabbatts’ application is understood to have been rejected by headhunting company Odgers Berndtson, who are handling the initial process before handing over to the PFA’s three-person panel comprising former England defender Gary Neville, Oxford defender John Mousinho and lawyer Edward Canty, who will begin to conduct interviews next week with a view to making the appointments before the end of November.

Dame Heather Rabbatts was rejected for the PFA role of picking Gordon Taylor’s replacement

In an interview with The Times on Monday Rabbatts claimed she was recently rejected for a Board position and was subsequently told she was ‘too urban, which is code for we don’t really want a mixed race woman here.’

Rabbatts’ claims are strongly contested by Odgers and members of the PFA selection panel, who have told Sportsmail that the 64-year-old’s application was not successful because of the potential for conflicts of interest arising from her previous role on the FA Board.

In addition the PFA have attracted a wide range of high-calibre candidates for the four positions, with over 400 applications from all over the world.

‘I personally spoke to Heather and explained the decision,’ Simon Cummins of Odgers told Sportsmail. ‘I have never used the word “urban” in that context – it’s not in my vernacular.

‘The decision not to progress the application was taken because of the potential for conflicts of interests – whether perceived or actual – arising from her previous Board roles in football.

‘It was not a slight on Heather and many other outstanding candidates were ruled out on that basis. The four directors will be truly independent.’

The PFA are currently in the process of trying to find Taylor’s successor after 38 years

Gary Neville is chair of a panel charged with recruiting four directors to lead the search

The long-running process of replacing Taylor was already shrouded in controversy after Sportsmail revealed in September that Neville’s appointment to chair an all-white, all-male panel had led to a backlash from PFA members and staff.

In an explosive letter to chairman Ben Purkiss and the players’ management committee, the PFA’s equalities own team described the composition of the selection panel as ‘incomprehensible’.

The appointment of the all-white panel was made independently of the PFA by conciliation service Sports Resolutions, who were subsequently asked by the union whether diversity was considered as part of the process.

The panel was appointed on the recommendation of Naomi Ellenbogen QC, who chaired Sport Resolutions’ independent review into the PFA’s governance which has been delivered to the union, but has yet to be published. 

Rabbatts applied to be a director but claims she was rejected for being ‘too urban’

A number of black players and coaches expressed unhappiness about the lack of diversity on the panel, which they deem to be a particularly egregious oversight given 30 per cent of PFA members are from a BAME background, which led to an explosive letter beings sent by the PFA’s equalities team, which includes former players such as Jason Lee and Iffy Onuora.

‘Given our commitment as a union to increasing diversity within the decision-making bodies of football it is inconceivable that at the very outset of a process aimed to select the first PFA CEO in almost 40 years, adequate consideration has not been given to the composition of the selection panel,’ the letter read.

The latest controversy to hit the PFA comes as 19 Premier League clubs and the FA signed up to the Football Leadership Code last week under which they pledged to use diverse selection panels to ensure best practice recruitment.

The PFA are adamant that inclusivity has been placed at the heart of the process to replace Taylor however, and that the 40-person shortlist includes a diverse range of candidates.

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