ECB chief has no intention of stepping down as cricket clubs grapple with racism scandal

ECB chief has no intention of stepping down as cricket clubs grapple with racism scandal

The chief executive of the England and Wales Cricket Board has said he has no intention of stepping down, as the game grapples with a racism scandal.

Tom Harrison said he was “determined to lead” the clubs through the crisis, following a meeting aimed at addressing the issue which has engulfed the sport in recent weeks.

Mr Harrison said: “I feel very determined to lead this change through the game and make sure this blight is addressed through the game.

Lincolnshire chairman Rob Bradley outside The Oval, London where a meeting took place with chairs of the 18 first-class counties, joined by representatives of the 21 non-first class cricket boards, the national counties cricket association and the MCC. Picture date: Friday November 19, 2021.
Image: Lincolnshire County Cricket chairman Rob Bradley said the ECB would ‘hold their hands up to certain things’

“…I do want to make sure I leave a game that has the right safe kind of environment for everyone to feel welcomed and feel a sense of belonging in.”

He said he felt “passionately about this issue”, adding that it is “something I feel to my core”.

Richard Thompson, chairman of Surrey County Cricket Club, backed Mr Harrison, adding: “Cricket needs leadership at the moment, it doesn’t need a vacuum.

“Trust is everything now and it starts today, and from here I think the process will move very quickly so we can start to show our actions do speak louder than our words.”

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Friday’s meeting included the chairs of the 18 first-class counties, representatives of the 21 non-first class cricket boards, the national counties cricket association, and the MCC.

Mr Harrison promised “tangible action” to address the racism crisis, saying a full 12-point plan would be revealed on Wednesday.

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‘There needs to be a total clear-out’

He said: “I think this is just the first step.

“I’m not suggesting this is the silver bullet response, or a silver bullet answer – it is an urgent and immediate response to the issues we face.”

Earlier, Lincolnshire County Cricket chairman Rob Bradley told Sky News about the meeting, saying: “There is a lot of strong feeling.

“I think the ECB are going to hold their hands up to certain things.”

He added: “We’ve got to learn a lot of lessons from this. The game has got to stand up and represent everybody equally.

“It’s in a sorry state, it has to be said, but I think it was a good meeting today to start to address things.”

Hampshire Cricket Board chairman John Wolfe said those at the meeting had found “very broad agreement on the direction of travel”, with Chris Clements, chairman of Oxfordshire Cricket, describing the meeting as “very good”.

The ECB, the MCC, the PCA, NCCA and the First Class and Recreational County Cricket network, said in a statement: “We stand together against discrimination in all its forms, and are united as a sport to act.

“We will continue to listen, and make swift, positive changes to the culture of the game. We will embrace and celebrate differences everywhere, knowing that with diversity, we are stronger.”

The ECB also apologised to Azeem Rafiq – the former Yorkshire player whose racism allegations shocked the cricketing world – and anyone else who had experienced discrimination in the game, with Mr Harrison saying the organisation was “truly sorry”.

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Among recent developments in the scandal:

• Former Yorkshire cricketer Azeem Rafiq apologised after he admitted making antisemitic comments a decade ago.

Rafiq earlier this week gave tearful testimony to MPs about the racism he had faced when playing for Yorkshire, revelations which sparked the scandal and led cricket bosses to hold Friday’s crisis summit.

• English cricketer Alex Hales also apologised on Friday for appearing in blackface at a party in 2009, branding his behaviour “reckless and foolish”.

• Sports minister Nigel Huddleston on Thursday threatened the sport with an independent regulator, described as the “nuclear option” if it could not get its house in order.