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LONDON (AP) — Still reeling after the botched handling of racism investigations, the English Football Association sought to defuse an escalating controversy Thursday by launching a “full cultural review” to improve inclusivity.

After dismissing the merits of their complaints for months, the FA apologized last week to England women’s team players Eni Aluko and Drew Spence, who were found to be the target of racially offensive jokes by since-fired coach Mark Sampson.

But the governing body’s contrition was undermined by FA chairman Greg Clarke’s stance at a parliamentary committee hearing into the scandal last week when he dismissed some concerns about racism within the FA as “fluff.” While Clarke on Thursday told members of the FA Council — the parliament of English soccer — that it was a “terrible word to use,” the outcry continues.

Clarke accepted there is a need “to win back the trust of our country.”

“We have lost the trust of the public,” Clarke said in a speech provided by the FA from a meeting closed to the media.

English soccer’s anti-discrimination group, Kick It Out, denounced the “shambolic exposure” of the FA’s “leadership, competence and discriminatory treatment of black and minority people.” Kick It Out chairman Herman Ouseley said the FA was only proposing action to address concerns about the lack of equality and inclusivity in English soccer because of “the latest crisis of confidence.”

To address the problems, Clarke wants to ensure the executive and coaching staff are less of a white-dominated hierarchy. The chairman also pledged to put in place better whistle-blowing and grievance procedures around the England teams after the inadequacies were exposed by women’s team players. There will also be an assessment of operations at the St George’s Park base for teams in central England.

“We must not compromise on culture and environment there,” Clarke said. “That is why we will conduct a full cultural review, top to bottom, of all SGP operations with a focus on improving its inclusivity and our collective care for players. Performance and a positive culture must not be an ‘either or’ choice.”


Rob Harris is at and