English cricket's race issue sparks again

Glenn MooreAAP
Azeem Rafiq said hearing Middlesex cricket boss say Asians prefer to focus on education was painful.
Camera IconAzeem Rafiq said hearing Middlesex cricket boss say Asians prefer to focus on education was painful. Credit: AP

Another Parliamentary hearing, another plan and another apology.

Just another day in English's cricket ongoing struggle to come to terms with the racism within it.

Coinciding with the appearance of four county cricket chairs in front of a select committee on Tuesday the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) updated its 12-point action plan to tackle racism and discrimination.

This added details of a review of "dressing room culture" and a standardised approach to whistleblowing.

However, one of the four chairs, Middlesex's Mike O'Farrell, had to subsequently issue an apology for explaining the game's lack of diversity by claiming young Black sportsman preferred football and rugby while Asians focused on education.

This repetition of old tropes led Azeem Rafiq, whose explosive whistleblowing testimony of the racism he experienced at Yorkshire began the whole process, to say this viewpoint "confirmed what an endemic problem the game has."

Yorkshire, Hampshire and Glamorgan were the other counties represented in front of a Digital, Culture, Media & Sport select committee as part of an ongoing investigation into cricketing governance.

O'Farrell said of youth players when reach their later teens: "The football and rugby world becomes much more attractive to the Afro-Caribbean community. In terms of the South Asian community, we're finding that they do not want necessarily to commit the same time that is necessary to go the next step.

"They sometimes prefer to go into other educational fields and then cricket becomes secondary."

His comments came 14 months after Football Association chairman Greg Clarke resigned after suggesting before the same committee south Asian people chose careers in IT over sport.

On Twitter Rafiq said it was a "painful listen" adding: "Shows how far removed from reality these people are. I actually can't believe what I am listening to."

O'Farrell later said he wished "to offer my wholehearted apologies", adding, "I was aiming to make the point that as a game, cricket has failed a generation of young cricketers.

"Cricket has to take responsibility for these failings and must learn that until we make the game an attractive proposition for youngsters of all backgrounds to continue through the pathway into the professional game, much like other sports and sectors are doing, the game won't make the progress it needs to."

During the hearing it also emerged that Mehmooda Duke, one of only two non-white chairs of a first-class county, had told the committee she quit her post at Leicestershire as she felt "intimidated, coerced, and manoeuvred by the ECB".

Julian Knight MP, the committee chair, said she had told them "she felt she was being used as tokenism when it came to endorsing the ECB's response to the racism inquiry."

The ECB's review of dressing room culture will be led by Clare Connor and Ashley Giles, England's managing directors of women's and men's cricket.

This assumes Giles survives the fall-out from England's miserable Ashes campaign.

"The review will commence in February and run across the 2022 season (when dressing rooms are active) with the final report due in September," the ECB said.

It added that an independently operated whistleblowing system will be set up by the end of February and a new anti-discrimination unit will begin operating in May.

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