County cricket clubs plagued by racism

Report finds black and Asian players are being excluded from official leagues, says Paul George
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The Independent Online
RACISM is so deeply entrenched in amateur cricket in Essex and east London that the local game has split into two racial camps, says a damning new report.

Anyone For Cricket?, which will be published at Lord's at the start of the domestic cricket season next month, describes how hundreds of black and Asian players and tens of mainly non-white teams play outside the established league structures because of resistance and animosity from white players and officials.

It also shows that when black and Asian cricketers do come across white players, they often experience bigotry both on and off the pitch. The report echoes research from other parts of the country and will make depressing reading for the governing body, the England Cricket Board.

Racial segregation has been well-documented in Yorkshire, one of the country's cricketing heartlands, where hundreds of Asian players compete in teams in Leeds, Huddersfield and Bradford as part of the Quaid-I-Azam League. Despite the level of enthusiasm among Asian Yorkshiremen, no native Asian has ever made the grade with Yorkshire County Cricket Club.

The report into the Essex and east London situation was commissioned by the Essex Cricket Authority and the London Community Cricket Association, and was compiled last summer by Ian McDonald and Sharda Ugra, of the Roehampton Institute's sports studies department.

The ECA and LCCA commissioned the report because they wanted to find out why so many black and Asian players in the area take part in competitions outside the official ECA Leagues.

McDonald and Ugra found that most of the teams in the established ECA leagues are mainly white, while most of the clubs playing in unofficial competitions are mainly black or Asian.

McDonald said the split reflected the existence of two distinct cultures of cricket. He added: "The relationship between the two is not equal. The affiliated clubs have the power to affect the continued exclusion of the black and Asian sides.

"Most black and Asian cricketers argue that the mainstream leagues hide behind league regulations and cultural stereotypes of black and Asian cricket to prevent the admission of black and Asian clubs into official leagues.

"Despite the obvious prejudice, there is an overwhelming desire among black and Asian players to be accepted and integrated, as teams, into the official structures of the game."

McDonald and Ugra found that many black and Asian players have suffered racial abuse from white players. One Asian cricketer complained that white players make racist comments in an effort to provoke black and Asian cricketers to lose their temper and get themselves out.

Another Asian player said: "One Asian batsman was getting his foot movement wrong and everything was going off the edge of his bat and a white guy turned around and said: 'What kind of Paki shot is that?'"

According to the report, racial prejudice also exists off the field. A number of black and Asian club secretaries complained that few white secretaries will play Asian teams, in particular, because "Asian players do not drink", and such a tendency would be bad for bar takings.

The Essex Cricket Board, which has replaced the ECA, said last night that it had not seen the report and therefore could not make any comment.