18 November 2021

Stamp out racism in cricket following Yorkshire shame, Jacob Rees-Mogg tells ECB

18 November 2021

Cricket’s racism crisis is a “matter of shame” to all lovers of the sport and must be stamped out by the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), according to Jacob Rees-Mogg.

The Commons Leader expressed his “sadness” at the treatment of Azeem Rafiq and others at Yorkshire County Cricket Club, adding the sport’s governing body must deal with allegations “much more thoroughly” than it has so far.

His comments came after sports minister Nigel Huddleston confirmed the Government has held “frank” conversations with the ECB and others over racism in the sport.

MPs across the political spectrum have reacted with horror and anger at Mr Rafiq’s testimony of the “inhuman” treatment he suffered during his time at Yorkshire.

Former cricketer Azeem Rafiq gives evidence at the inquiry into racism he suffered at Yorkshire County Cricket Club, at the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee on sport governance at Portcullis House in London (PA) (PA Media)

The whistleblower made a series of new allegations that implicated a handful of high-profile former England players during an appearance in front of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee this week.

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

Speaking in the Commons, Mr Rees-Mogg said: “As somebody who has followed cricket since his childhood, I think it’s a matter of shame to all cricket lovers.

“I look back to following Somerset County Cricket in the late 70s and early 80s when we had the most wonderful players from the West Indies – Joel Garner, Vic Richards particularly but also there were others too.

“They were so inspirational and encouraged excitement in cricket and made everyone in Somerset feel that they were part of our county and huge contributors to it.

“I am afraid what’s been going on in Yorkshire fills many cricket lovers with sadness and the ECB has a strong responsibility to ensure that this is stamped out and dealt with much more thoroughly than it has so far.”

Earlier, Conservative MP Julian Knight – who chairs the select committee – asked Mr Huddleston if he shared his consternation that “the former chair of Yorkshire hadn’t even read the seminal Fletcher report into the lack of inclusivity at the county”.

We need a Kick It Out for cricket, right now

He added: “Does he agree with me the response to Mr Rafiq’s brave testimony in this House has not only to be to clear out the Augean stables in Yorkshire, but to ensure the institutionally racist blocking of minority community talent is stopped forever?

“We need a Kick It Out for cricket, right now.”

Mr Huddleston, in his reply, said: “The Fletcher report, which was pretty old, was clearly not acted upon, it should have been.”

He added: “We’ve had very frank conversations with the ECB and others involved in cricket over the last couple of weeks. I have had reassurance that they take the issue seriously and will act.

“(ECB chief executive) Tom Harrison has promised me that with every fibre of his being he will take action here.

“We will judge them on their deeds and not their words, and if they fail to act appropriately we will not hesitate to intervene further.”

For Labour, shadow culture minister Alison McGovern claimed those who failed to deal with cultures of racism in sport will “ruin our country’s reputation, not build it”.

As she addressed the claims made by Mr Rafiq, Ms McGovern said: “I want to return briefly to the situation in cricket because I think the lesson is for all sports that those who failed to deal with cultures of racism and prejudice will ruin our country’s reputation, not build it.

“I know that you (Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle) and I, all members and ministers and shadow ministers in this House were heartbroken listening to Azeem Rafiq, but as the minister himself said, it’s deeds, not words, that will make a difference.

“That goes for the Government as well.

“Can I ask the minister if he will place in the Commons library any correspondence that he has had with the Equality and Human Rights Commission and can he tell the House what discussions he has had with them about their powers and resources, and whether they are enough to deal with what we know and have known for a long time are chronic problems in sport?”

Mr Huddleston replied: “I will happily place documents that are appropriate, I cannot promise to put every single document or discussion as she knows there are sometimes confidentiality and frank discussions concerns that may inhibit our ability to place every single piece of correspondence.”

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