Greg Clarke slams David Moyes for 'distasteful' comments but Sunderland back their manager

Ben Rumsby
FA Chairman Greg Clarke says David Moyes showed Vicki Sparks a lack of respect - PA

The David Moyes “slap” scandal intensified on Tuesday night after the chairman of the Football Association became the most senior figure yet to condemn the Sunderland manager.

Greg Clarke accused Moyes of showing a “complete lack of respect” to BBC reporter Vicki Sparks and of undermining efforts to eradicate domestic abuse by threatening to hit her at the end of an interview.

Moyes was facing an FA charge over the matter after the governing body wrote to Sunderland on Monday asking for an explanation for his comments, which Clarke also branded “distasteful”.

The club finally broke their silence on the scandal yesterday, describing their manager’s conduct as “wholly unacceptable” before confirming they nevertheless had no plans to sack him.

Moyes appeared all but certain to be punished by the FA for using “threatening” words towards Sparks and may also be sanctioned for breaching the its rules on discrimination, with Clarke declaring the former Manchester United boss’s behaviour could be interpreted as sexist.

That was after watching footage of Moyes’s menacing reaction to being asked by Sparks if he felt under more pressure following Sunderland’s drab goalless draw with Burnley last month because the club’s owner was in attendance.

Confronting Sparks in the apparent belief the cameras had stopped rolling, Moyes accused her of being “a wee bit naughty”, adding: “You still might get a slap, even though you’re a woman. Careful the next time you come in.”

Those to condemn the incident included the shadow sports minister and a local domestic abuse charity, who called for the FA to take action.

Clarke, who stressed he had no input into the disciplinary process, said of the incident: “It was regrettable, it was distasteful, and I think it showed a complete lack of respect. And we in the game stand for respect.”

He added: “I think it’s doubly bad to use such a term to a woman because there is a lot of violence against women in society and terms like that aren’t just disrespectful, I think they are bad examples.

Sparks works for BBC Newcastle and Radio Five Live

“I regret that it happened and I’m sure that David Moyes regrets that it happened.”

Clarke claimed the conduct of Moyes – who made a public apology on Monday – was not an isolated incident in the game.

“We’re getting into a trend of people treating journalists doing their jobs badly, and I would like to see that stop,” he said.

“Respect is respect for everybody. If a person wants to interview you, the least you could do is treat them with a bit of respect.

“I’ve been seeing that more and more: people storming off and being facetious and insulting. I just think, on that level, it has to stop as well.

“The disciplinary team will crack down on people who break the rules and they will decide whether the rules have been broken and what an appropriate sanction would be.

“There’s a professional woman trying to do a job – and not an easy job – and she’s asking appropriate questions in a respectful manner, and I think she deserves respectful responses – not responses like that.”

BBC Reporter Vicki Sparks interviewing Claudio Ranieri last year

Moyes’s outburst took place on March 18, days after the FA launched its new strategy for women’s football.

The footage was not broadcast at the time but was leaked and emerged on the same day as the England squad for the European Women’s Championship was announced and the FA council unanimously backed a reform package that will see more female directors join the governing body’s board.

Clarke admitted Moyes’s comments did not “at all” sit comfortably with those gains, adding: “We’re an inclusive game, where everybody is welcomed, everybody is valued, everybody is respected.

“Any examples of disrespect towards people in the game sets a bad example and undermines the whole tone of what we’re trying to achieve in football.”

Clarke spoke out after Sunderland issued a statement on the scandal, saying: “Such actions are not condoned or excused in any way.

“The exchange between the manager and a BBC reporter was wholly unacceptable.

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“David recognised this immediately, proactively bringing the matter to the attention of the CEO and apologising to the reporter.

“The club also spoke with both a senior figure at the BBC and the reporter personally, expressing its profound regret over what had occurred.

“The matter was treated with the utmost seriousness from the outset and the swift and decisive action taken by the club and the manager at the time ensured that it was resolved to the satisfaction of the reporter and the BBC, which was the priority.

“With both the BBC and the reporter agreeing that appropriate action had been taken at the time, the club continues to fully support David in his role as manager of Sunderland AFC.”

The club did not respond to requests for comment last night on whether they had formally sanctioned Moyes over the matter.

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