Government Warns It Will Step In If English Cricket Fails To Tackle Racism
The government is warning the ECB it must get a grip on the growing racism scandal within the sport (Alamy)
Exclusive: The government is warning English cricket’s governing body that unless it leads by example in rooting out racism within the sport, it will be forced to step in and take over.
The threat follows harrowing testimony from the former player Azeem Rafiq, who detailed a series of devastating allegations against his former club Yorkshire to a Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee hearing in Parliament on Tuesday.
Culture secretary Nadine Dorries and the sports minister Nigel Huddleston have called on the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) to “take strong and decisive action” with a “thorough, transparent and swift” investigation.
But PoliticsHome has learned that if ministers feel the ECB is not doing enough, then their department, DCMS, will intervene with the problem.
“It's clear it’s a bigger issue than just Yorkshire,” a DCMS source said. “The ECB need to lead on it, if they can't or won't, we will step in.”
But the insider also stressed that this wasn't an invitation to let the governing body “off the hook”, after Rafiq and others have criticised the way the situation has been handled by the ECB so far.
Giving evidence to the cross-party Commons DCMS committee, Rafiq described experiencing "inhuman" treatment in two spells at Yorkshire, and that racism was institutional within cricket.
Since Rafiq spoke out about the bullying and racial slurs he faced, numerous other cricketers have claimed they detailed similar issues at their clubs.
"I've had messages from people who have played at Leicestershire, a guy who played at Middlesex, messages from people who played at Nottinghamshire," he said.
"Maurice Chambers spoke out yesterday about Essex.
"Some people are still pretty scared to talk about it. Some still say 'is it racism, I don't know'. One reoccurrence is the word P*** was used a lot.”
The senior Labour MP Kevin Brennan, who sits on the DCMS committee and listened to Rafiq’s testimony, said it's “up to the government to show leadership” now on tackling this.
“A lot of professional sport and grassroots sport relies upon support in one way or another from government," the former minister told PoliticsHome.
"It has a very legitimate role in this, and it should insist on high governance standards and on zero tolerance of racism in any form whatsoever in any of our major sports.”
He added: “There is a leadership role for Dorries to play here, and to make it clear that the government will take action and won't support sports if they don't show they are rooting this out.”
In a statement Dorries said: “Incredibly powerful testimony from Azeem Rafiq today. His bravery has shone a light on the abhorrent racist culture at Yorkshire County Cricket Club.“The ECB needs to take strong and decisive action to ensure nobody else has to go through what Azeem went through.”
Huddleston called Rafiq's evidence “absolutely harrowing”, saying the government “will closely scrutinise the actions” the ECB and Yorkshire take in response.
“We need their investigation to be thorough, transparent and swift to restore public faith in cricket,” he said.
Earlier Rafiq heavily criticised the ECB and the Professional Cricket Association's handling of his situation, saying when they took the stance "that they would trust Yorkshire to do the right thing" he told them "this is going to end up in a car crash for everyone”.
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