Report says cricket should lose public cash if racism isn’t driven out of the sport

A parliamentary report has recommended the Government should limit public funding for cricket unless the sport demonstrates real progress in eradicating racism from the game.

The report was commissioned in response to racist behaviour at Yorkshire County Cricket Club, which was exposed by former player Azeem Rafiq.

Rafiq gave testimony last year to the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee about his experiences at the club.

Yorkshire has come in for severe criticism of how it handled Rafiq’s allegations. Former club chairman Roger Hutton and chief executive Mark Arthur have resigned and 16 members of staff have been sacked.

Ex Yorkshire and England fast bowler Darren Gough has since been appointed director of cricket until the end of the 2022 season, while former England bowlers Ryan Sidebottom and Steve Harmison have joined the coaching staff on an interim basis.

Commenting on the report’s release, DCMS committee chairman, Julian Knight MP, said: “The powerful evidence given to this committee by Azeem Rafiq convinced us his story was typical of an endemic problem across the whole of cricket.

“We commend him for having the courage to blow the whistle on unacceptable and discriminatory behaviour.

“We have been shocked by language people used in correspondence with us after the hearing.

“That, together with stories run in the media to discredit him, demonstrate eradicating racism from the game will be a long and difficult road.

“Public funding for cricket must depend on real leadership and progress by the ECB to tackle abhorrent behaviour, not just in the dressing rooms, but also in the stands.

“The Government must make future funding conditional on the game cleaning up its act.”

The DCMS report concludes: “It is evident to us there is a deep-seated issue of racism in cricket. More pertinent, it is evident to Yorkshire Country Cricket Club and the England and Wales Cricket Board that there is an issue of racism in cricket.

“We recommend the Government ensures any future public funds for cricket are dependent on continuous, demonstrable progress in getting rid of racism in both the dressing rooms and on the stands.

“We recommend that the England and Wales Cricket Board develop a set of key indicators by which they might measure their progress and then report to us on those indicators every quarter.”

Responding to the report’s findings, Rafiq said: “The committee has listened and taken sensible action. It is absolutely brilliant that Julian Knight and his colleagues on the committee are going to hold the ECB to account.

“This shows just how seriously politicians are taking an issue that too many people in cricket ignored for so long. The committee understands how important it is to clean up the game.”

The West Yorkshire mayor, Tracy Brabin also commented on the report stating: ““Racism has no place in our society and while I welcome this report, it should not have been needed. All sporting organisations should be free of racism and discrimination.

“The abuse Azeem Rafiq was subject to while at Yorkshire County Cricket Club was appalling and while the steps made by Lord Patel have been positive, there is still a lot of work to do to ensure that the club is fully inclusive. I would like the club to recognise the amazing diversity and talent in the county’s cricket-playing communities, in particular, I would like to see them do their utmost to recognise and support the enthusiasm for cricket in South Asian communities in the county.

“While not everyone will get to play professional cricket, your background should not affect your opportunity to do so.”