The chairman of the Middlesex County Cricket Club has apologised after saying that the lack of diversity in English cricket is due to Afro-Caribbean people preferring football and rugby and the South Asian community focusing more on education.
- England and Wales Cricket Board met for a committee meeting on Tuesday to update its 12-point action plan to tackle racism and discrimination
- Azeem Rafiq says Middlesex chair Mike O’Farrell’s comments confirm an “endemic” racism problem in cricket
- O’Farrell’s comments come after Greg Clarke resigned in 2020 for suggesting before the same committee that South Asian people chose careers in IT over sport
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 the way he explained the game’s lack of diversity.
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 reaching their later teens: “The football and rugby world becomes much more attractive to the Afro-Caribbean community.
His comments came 14 months after Football Association chairman Greg Clarke resigned after suggesting before the same committee that 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.
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 that she had quit her post at Leicestershire as she felt “intimidated, coerced and manoeuvred by the ECB”.
Julian Knight MP, the committee’s chair, said Ms Duke 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 would be set up by the end of February and a new anti-discrimination unit would begin operating in May.