English cricket’s top administrator announced an anti-racism action plan on Friday in response to the Azeem Rafiq scandal, admitting an “earthquake” had hit the sport in recent weeks.
The 12 measures unveiled by the England and Wales Cricket Board include a review of dressing-room culture, action to help non-white and less privileged players pursue careers in the game and a commitment to increased diversity on county boards.
Pakistan-born former cricketer Rafiq gave harrowing testimony to lawmakers last week in which he said his career had been ended by the racist abuse he received while at leading English county Yorkshire.
“The last few weeks have been very, very tough for cricket,” ECB chief executive Tom Harrison told reporters. “It feels like an earthquake has hit us.
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“The most damning part of Azeem’s testimony is that he didn’t want his son to be part of the game. That is, for someone in my job, the most difficult thing you can hear.”
Another point in the action plan is a governance review of the ECB, which will consider whether the organisation can be both a promoter and regulator of the sport.
In a week in which a fan-led review recommended an independent regulator for English football, Harrison said cricket should at least be open to the prospect of a similar set-up.
@ECB_cricket chief exec Tom Harrison on why an action plan in response to "earthquake" of Azeem Rafiq's racism revelations is more than just "words, words, words, blah, blah, blah". My @AFP piece via @timesofindia https://t.co/xIXfJDl7ky #AzeemRafiq
— Julian Guyer (@stGuyer) November 26, 2021
“We had a meeting yesterday (Thursday) with the county chairs… whether we should be the regulator and the national governing body going forward,” he said.
“That conversation is one we’re going to have with the game as well.”
Not going to walk away
Harrison, asked why anybody should believe the ECB was going to take concrete action now, given previous accusations of inaction, said change would happen.
“I know we are in the dock for words, words, words, blah, blah, blah, no action, that kind of thing,” he said.
“What we are trying to say here is that this is action-orientated. But it’s not everything… I don’t think this is something cricket has ever got right.”
Harrison, personally criticised over the ECB’s response to Rafiq’s revelations, added he had no intention of resigning.
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“I am very motivated to make sure we provide this welcoming environment across our sport, for everybody,” he said.
“That is something I’ve felt passionately about since the moment I walked into this job, and I’m not going to walk away from that now.”
The fallout for Yorkshire has been devastating, with sponsors making a mass exodus, senior figures quitting and the Headingley-based club suspended from hosting lucrative international matches.
But the crisis has spread far beyond the club, with other counties and former players also in the spotlight.
Jahid Ahmed this week became the third former Essex player to allege he had experienced racist abuse while playing for the club.
More than 2,000 people have contacted an independent commission looking at racism and other forms of discrimination in cricket since it opened a call for evidence earlier this month.
This week the BBC said former England captain Michael Vaughan had been left out of its commentary team for the upcoming Ashes series in Australia to avoid a “conflict of interest”.
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Vaughan is alleged to have told the now 30-year-old Rafiq and other Yorkshire players of Asian origin that there were “too many of you lot, we need to do something about it” during a county match in 2009.
The former batsman, an Ashes-winning skipper in 2005, has “categorically denied” the allegation.
AFP with additional input by GVS News Desk