Institutional racism, sexism and class-based discrimination are deep-rooted and widespread in English cricket, a report has found.
After receiving evidence and recommendations, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) acted on one recommendation – saying sorry.
“We certainly apologise to anybody that has felt excluded or discriminated against,” ECB chairman Richard Thompson told Sky News. “Reading those lived experiences clearly was very shocking – to read what people have experienced in a way that they should never have had to have done.”
More than 4,000 people provided evidence to the Independent Commission for Equity in Cricket (ICEC) which found:• Half of respondents experienced discrimination• Racism is entrenched in cricket• Women are marginalised and routinely experience sexism• Little to no focus on addressing class barriers• Complaints systems are confusing and not fit for purpose• Equity, diversity and inclusion require significant improvement
It was the murder of George Floyd in 2020 and global outrage over institutionalised racism that sparked the ECB into commissioning a report from Cindy Butts.
Around the same time, Azeem Rafiq called out racism within cricket here. The Islamophobia he faced and the inaction that followed wasn’t limited to just Yorkshire in a sport rife with injustice and inequality.
“All the stories that Azeem Rafiq talks about, that all happened to me,” a former player of Pakistani heritage told the investigators.
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“All the abuse, the isolation, the hatred. [Teammates] poured alcohol on me. They threw bacon sandwiches at me. I have lived with all that and never spoke to anyone about it.”
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The frustrations faced in reporting abuse were clear in the account of a recreational player of Indian heritage.
“Myself and a fellow player were called terrorists after a game,” he said. “We complained to the opposition Chair and, after an initial apology, the Chair decided that he wanted to defend the person who made the remark and that we were attempting to defame the club and they were the victims.”
The ICEC report now runs to more than 300 pages – highlighting issues that were not adequately addressed after a previous ECB racism report 24 years ago.
“I think it’s absolutely disgraceful,” Ms Butts told Sky News. “It was really difficult to find evidence to show that it has been properly dealt with. That’s really disappointing. And it needs to be dealt with now.”
Drinking culture a ‘barrier to inclusion’
The report is being released in the midst of the men’s and women’s Ashes series that highlight issues that need addressing.
Australia’s men celebrated winning their first test by drinking beer on the pitch and the drinking culture in cricket is described in the report as a “barrier to inclusion”.
It is not only about ending “laddish behaviour” – pay parity for female players is urged by 2030.
And the sport has to become cheaper and more accessible for children from lower socio-economic backgrounds in state schools – ending the favourable pathways for private school pupils.
The report says: “Our evidence shows that elitism alongside deeply rooted and widespread forms of structural and institutional racism, sexism and class-based discrimination continue to exist across the game.”
The commission recommends that after 2023 the annual fixtures between Eton and Harrow schools and Oxford and Cambridge universities are no longer played at Lord’s, which is owned by the Marylebone Cricket Club.
The hope is they are replaced by national state schools under-15s finals and a national finals’ competitions for university teams – involving women’s and men’s sides.
But Ms Butts does not believe a new national governing body is required.
“I believe that they are committed to making the changes that are necessary,” Ms Butts said. “We haven’t shied away from saying that the ECB itself needs to substantially reform in the way that it carries out its regulatory role that shows its commitment to issues of equity.
“There are training needs. We talk about the lack of racial literacy, for example, within the ECB.
“So there are a number of things that I think point to ways in which we have recommended that the ECB can improve. I don’t think at this stage, disbanding the ECB will help to deliver all of the really important things that we think now need to happen.”