Hair ends race case and hopes for return as umpire

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The Independent Online

Darrell Hair, or, rather, his legal advisers, unexpectedly settled his claim for racial discrimination against the International Cricket Council after six days of rancorous cross-examination and illuminating witness statements. The experienced umpire, who brought the case after being demoted from standing in elite panel matches, hopes to resume officiating in Tests and one-day internationals in six months' time. The governing body of the game has emerged from the hearing with Hair having made an unconditional withdrawal of his allegation.

If he is to stand in top-level matches again, a number of ICC executives, chiefly those from India, Pakistan and Zimbabwe, will have to be persuaded to change their strongly held belief that Hair should never be allowed near a Test match again. He himself has received no guarantees from the governing body. The exact wording of a statement drawn by up both teams of lawyers yesterday is that "he may return".

At present, this would seem unlikely. Various ICC executives have acknowledged during the six-day hearing that, on the field, Hair knows the Laws and is a competent umpire. At issue is his execution of his duties, particularly off it. There remains a widespread feeling within the Board that he should have restarted the final Test at the Oval last year after Pakistan failed to take the field when they were accused of ball-tampering. Hair and Billy Doctrove, his co-umpire who failed to support him in the hearing at the Central London Employment Tribunal, awarded the match to England.

There was no indication on Monday evening that Hair's lawyers were about to make "an unconditional withdrawal" of his allegation of racial discrimination, the wording agreed by both parties. The agreed plan now is that over the next six months Hair will stand in ICC associate matches between minor cricketing nations and possibly train junior umpires. In March, when his contract expires, the full Board will decide whether he can resume top-level umpiring.

The concern he will have is that there has not even been a nod or a wink from the ICC that he will return to elite panel umpiring. What he does have going for him, though, is that he has to be given 12 months notice of dismissal. In other words, he will be hanging around the ICC for at least a further 18 months, by which time some of the executives among his critics from India, Pakistan and Zimbabwe, in particular, as well as Sir John Anderson, chairman of New Zealand's Board, might have retired. And no one in the governing body will dare be other than respectful towards him in the future, which he will view as an achievement.

Hair will have to pay his legal and personal costs as well as those of the likes of Doctrove, who failed to appear at the hearing without a word of explanation to him or the lawyers, having had a business-class flight and hotel laid on. "Darrell will not be bankrupt," said Paul Gilbert, his solicitor. "He feels relieved this is all over but does not regret bringing the action. What we have is the basis of a future for Darrell that will lead towards his returning to international cricket. We felt the case was going well but it was a great shame Doctrove did not appear."

From the ICC's standpoint, Ray Mali, the president, said: "This was an unequivocal withdrawal of Darrell Hair's claims. We are pleased the issue has been resolved after having no option but to defend his serious allegations." Malcolm Speed, the chief executive of the ICC, added: "I don't have a view about Darrell returning to Test umpiring. I am not concerned about what has been written about the ICC during the hearing." The governing body will have to pay all its own costs, which have included flying witnesses in to London from all over the world as well as employing a QC, Michael Beloff, who reputedly charges up to £1,000 an hour. A spokesman estimated its costs would be "less than $500,000" (£246,000) but others reckoned that figure would be far exceeded.

Hair left the tribunal without making any comment and will fly back to his native Australia at the weekend. A return to top-level umpiring is what he wanted above all from the hearing. What, chiefly, has come to light after six theatrical days is a bloated ICC governance and the short-comings of several of its executives, fully exposed by Robert Griffiths, Hair's QC. For Ken Gordon, the West Indies Board president at the time of the Oval Test, to pass comment on Hair without knowing that Doctrove was a West Indian and confusing him with Steve Bucknor, beggars belief. Changes will have to be made, but whether the umpire will ever be forgiven for effectively initiating them is another matter.

Test of wills: How an umpire's ruling led to court

20 August, 2006 Pakistan forfeit fourth Test against England, having refused to play on after being given a five-run penalty for ball-tampering by umpire Darrell Hair.

25 August International Cricket Council reveal that Hair offered to resign in exchange for $500,000 (£246,000). Offer was later withdrawn but ICC chief executive Malcolm Speed makes e-mail public. ICC confirms Pakistan and England agree one-day series is to go ahead.

4 November ICC confirms Hair will not be engaged for any further international matches until the end of his contract in March 2008.

18 January, 2007 Hair stands for the first time since the Pakistan row in an Associates Tri-Series match between Canada and Scotland in Kenya.

1 October Hair's employment tribunal with the ICC begins in London.

8 October Hair withdraws claim for racial discrimination.