09 November 2021

Government could ‘step in’ if cricket bosses fail to act over racism crisis

09 November 2021

The Government has vowed to “step in” if Yorkshire County Cricket Club and the ECB fail to take “real action” in response to the racism crisis.

Culture minister Chris Philp told MPs that racism must be “confronted”, “eradicated” and it should “never be written off as just banter” as he expressed concerns over allegations made at Yorkshire CCC.

He said the situation faced by former player Azeem Rafiq was “unacceptable”, should “never have been allowed to happen” and should have been “dealt with properly” during the initial investigation.

The case of Mr Rafiq must be a “watershed moment for cricket”, the minister added.

Chris Philp said the Government could step in (House of Commons/PA) (PA Archive)

Speaking in the House of Commons Mr Philp said: “We have been clear with the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) that this needs a full, transparent investigation both into the incidents involving Azeem Rafiq but also into the wider cultural issues and Yorkshire Cricket Club.”

The minister acknowledged the ECB is “investigating this fully” and has started to act, including by stripping Yorkshire of the right to host international matches.

He said there have been “quite rightly” resignations from the Yorkshire board, with new chairman Lord Patel of Bradford already outlining action he wants to take and apologising to Mr Rafiq.

Mr Philp went on: “We know this will not undo the pain Azeem feels. More action is now needed and we have called on Lord Patel and the ECB to fully investigate to eradicate racism where it exists and tackle the culture that can support it.”

He encouraged “anyone who has experienced discrimination in cricket” to come forward to the Independent Commission for Equity in Cricket, a discrimination inquiry set up by the ECB.

Mr Philp added he understood the Equality and Human Rights Commission has “requested information” about the incident involving Mr Rafiq.

He added to MPs: “The Government applauds Azeem Rafiq’s courage in speaking out and encourages anybody else similarly affected to do the same.

“This must be a watershed moment for cricket.

“The Government will now closely scrutinise the actions of the ECB … and we’re going to scrutinise the actions that Yorkshire County Cricket Club takes in response to these damning allegations.

“The investigations I’ve referred to need to be thorough, they need to be transparent and they need to be public – that is necessary to restore the public’s belief in cricket and beyond.

“Parliament is watching, the Government is watching and the country is watching.

“We expect real action and the Government stands ready to step in and take action if they do not put their own house in order.”

Roger Hutton stepped down as Yorkshire chair last week citing frustrations over the handling of Azeem Rafiq’s claims of institutional racism, but Mr Philp suggested that was not enough by telling MPs: “If there is anybody left from that regime, they should resign as well.”

Shadow culture secretary Jo Stevens also said the rest of the Yorkshire cricket board must resign their posts after the “shameful fiasco”.

Mr Philp later suggested players who have “committed acts of racism” should be prevented from playing cricket.

The minister told MPs: “Where players are found to have committed acts of racism they should suffer consequences.

“A mere slap on the wrist or an admonishment is clearly not enough and in that spirit I understand that the ECB have already suspended from the England selection one of the players at Yorkshire County Cricket Club who was guilty of abusing, racially abusing, Azeem Rafiq and I hope that both county cricket clubs, the ECB, cricket clubs more generally, sporting clubs more generally as well, take exactly that kind of action whenever they find examples of this kind of unacceptable behaviour, and let us say as a House today that is what we expect them to do.”

Labour MP Navendu Mishra (Stockport), who secured the urgent question on the issue, said he hopes the EHRC will investigate Yorkshire, describing the club’s conduct as “unacceptable”.

Mr Mishra said it is not just cricket where racism and discrimination “festers”.

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