Michael Johnson steps down from FA panel on equality

Michael Johnson has stepped down from the Football Association's Inclusion Advisory Board following criticism over comments he made in 2012 describing homosexuality as "detestable".

The comments came to light last week, with the FA forced to defend the appointment of the 40-year-old.

Who is Michael Johnson?

Former Birmingham City defender Michael Johnson

Johnson, 40, made more than 550 appearances, predominantly as a centre-back, for Notts County, Birmingham City, Derby County and Sheffield Wednesday.

The former Jamaica international retired as a player in 2009.

He was named on the FA's Inclusion Advisory Board on 16 December 2013.

The ex-footballer made them during an appearance on BBC One but has since said he has changed his views.

"I've taken time over the weekend to reflect on the coverage," he said.

"I feel that it's in the best interests of all concerned if I step down from my duties with the inclusion advisory board."

Johnson, who made more than 500 appearances for Notts County, Birmingham City and Derby County, was speaking on BBC's The Big Questions programme aired in March 2012.

The former Jamaica international made his comments when asked if he would support the FA's anti-homophobic campaign because of his Christian faith.

He said: "Because of my beliefs, because of the Bible that I read, in the Bible it does state that homosexuality is detestable unto the Lord."

The board, which was formed in December and is aimed at widening inclusion in football, is chaired by FA board member Heather Rabbatts and will hold its first meeting later this month.

Johnson's decision to step down means the group now has nine members with former England and Chelsea player Graeme Le Saux the only ex-professional on the list.

FA's Inclusion Advisory Board members

  • Heather Rabbatts (chair): An independent non-executive director on the FA Board and equality campaigner
  • Shelley Alexander: Co-founder of Women in Football
  • Graeme Le Saux: Former England, Chelsea, Blackburn and Southampton defender. On the board of the Football Regulatory Authority
  • Joyce Cooke OBE: Founding managing director of the Centre for access to Football in Europe (CAFE) and chair of Level Playing Field (LPF)
  • Rishi Jain: Kick It Out Football League Clubs Development Officer
  • Edward Lord OBE, JP: Chair of the London FA Inclusion Advisory Group.
  • Rimla Akhtar: Chaired the Muslim Women Sports Foundation since 2005.
  • Peter Clayton: FA Council Member and CEO of Middlesex FA
  • Thura Win JP: Chairman of The FA's Safeguarding Review Panel and Women's Football Conference

Johnson added: "My position on the inclusion advisory board was voluntary and I've decided to use that time to continue my personal development and education within equality.

"I remain a big advocate of inclusion in football and have actively supported The FA's Coach programme which offers aspiring coaches from black and minority ethnic backgrounds a chance to progress their football qualifications."

Rabbatts said: "It's unfortunate that Michael has decided to step down but he remains 100% behind the aims of the inclusion advisory board and is someone that we will be speaking to on a regular basis as we progress throughout this year and beyond.

"He has a wealth of experience in both domestic and international football and is carving out a coaching career with Birmingham City so he's someone that can bring vital expertise to the work of the inclusion advisory board over time."

The IAB group will monitor the delivery of Football's Inclusion and Anti-Discrimination Action Plan between 2013 and 2017.

In October 2013, the head of Fifa's anti-racism task force, Jeffrey Webb, said he was left "disheartened" after meeting "demoralised" black and ethnic minority players in England.