Leading anti-racist campaigners have backed the Scottish Football Association’s move to recruit Malky Mackay as new performance director.
Mackay has emerged as the favoured candidate from a short list of six names and after Austin MacPhee, understood to have been the SFA’s first choice to fill the vacancy, removed himself from the equation last week by joining the Hearts management team.
Mackay is due to be unveiled at Hampden Park today. But the former Cardiff City manager’s appointment to a role described as bearing responsibility for “implementing the SFA’s strategic objectives and communicating effectively with a wide range of stakeholders” has already met with dismay from some quarters after Mackay was the subject of a humiliating expose for actions dating back to his days in charge of the Welsh club.
Mackay and Iain Moody, Cardiff City’s then head of recruitment, were accused of exchanging racist, sexist, anti- Semitic and homophobic messages between June 2011 and March 2014.
Mackay, who was then on the verge of joining Crystal Palace as manager, had already been sacked by Cardiff City’s Malaysian owner Vincent Tan, one of the reported subjects of the pair’s texted slurs.
The Football Association did not charge Mackay and Moody, who resigned from his new role as Crystal Palace sporting director when the controversy emerged in a newspaper report in August 2014.
But Mackay apologised for his actions and later attended a diversity education programme run by the English FA. This willingness to atone was referenced in a statement concerning Mackay’s imminent appointment released by Show Racism the Red Card yesterday.
“After admitting to sending text messages that were very regrettable and disrespectful to other cultures, Malky Mackay underwent equality and diversity training through an education programme with the FA and we wish him well in his new role at the SFA,” it said.
Lord Ouseley, the founder and chairman of the Kick It Out anti-racism group, also backed Mackay, explaining the 44-year-old Scot now had a “better understanding” of diversity issues.
Lord Ouseley added that Mackay now had the chance to “put himself back in a state where he can prove that he is a good person, and a person capable of performing both in football terms, and how he treats people”.
But Clare Haughey, the SNP MSP for Rutherglen, has urged the SFA not to appoint Mackay, saying it would send out the “wrong signal” to young footballers in Scotland, with the SFA having made “huge efforts” to tackle racism, homophobia and promote women’s football.
“It’s deeply concerning that a former manager who has made reportedly racist comments is being widely tipped as the favourite for a key role in the SFA,” Haughey said.
One of the performance director’s responsibilities is to oversee the continued progress of Scotland’s women’s teams, with the full national side having qualified for the European Championships next year.
The SFA is braced for further criticism for an appointment that some claim is a retrograde step at a time of heightened concern over racial issues.
The English FA was accused of damaging their own credibility when an investigation into the conduct of both Mackay and Moody ended without any punishment.
Legal advice said the FA was unable to issue charges because the texts had been sent “with a legitimate expectation of privacy”.
As well as remorse, Mackay later expressed the hope he would be handed another chance in football. To the surprise of some he was then appointed Wigan Athletic manager in November 2014.
Then Wigan chairman Dave Whelan said it was time to move on from the controversy, adding that Mackay had already apologised “publicly” for what happened.
Mackay, who won five caps for Scotland, was sacked just six months later having led Wigan to only five wins in 24 matches and with the club on the verge of dropping into League One.
Prior to this appointment he had spoken about his desire to return to the game – and he believed he should be given the chance.
“I certainly hope I’m given that opportunity,” Mackay said two years ago. “The last 20 years working with a huge diversity of people who have had dealings with me would show that.
“I did it in a period where I was under immense pressure and stress in terms of relationships that weren’t going too well at the football club at the time. That doesn’t excuse anything. I’m a manager, a leader of people and it shouldn’t have happened. I’m a human being and I made a mistake.”