Umpire deaf to appeal for abuse

Inside lines

The Commission for Racial Equality are investigating allegations that cricket officials in West Yorkshire have failed to take seriously the racial abuse of a black player. It follows an incident in the Bradford Cricket League involving Tony Bowry, who plays for Lightcliffe and is a cricket development officer with the Yorkshire Cricket Board. It is claimed that Bowry, who is black, was abused while he was at the crease in a game between Lightcliffe and Idle. His team-mates, including the captain, Bob Furness, a policeman, say the umpire took no action, but Furness, who confronted the official after the game, was banned for a month by the League after his protest. Now Lightcliffe, who claim nothing has been done by the League either about the alleged abuse or their complaint, have passed the matter to the CRE, who are investigating. The League say they have not taken up the matter because there was no report from the umpire. But their president, Albert Smith, claims there is no racism in the League. "Every

The Commission for Racial Equality are investigating allegations that cricket officials in West Yorkshire have failed to take seriously the racial abuse of a black player. It follows an incident in the Bradford Cricket League involving Tony Bowry, who plays for Lightcliffe and is a cricket development officer with the Yorkshire Cricket Board. It is claimed that Bowry, who is black, was abused while he was at the crease in a game between Lightcliffe and Idle. His team-mates, including the captain, Bob Furness, a policeman, say the umpire took no action, but Furness, who confronted the official after the game, was banned for a month by the League after his protest. Now Lightcliffe, who claim nothing has been done by the League either about the alleged abuse or their complaint, have passed the matter to the CRE, who are investigating. The League say they have not taken up the matter because there was no report from the umpire. But their president, Albert Smith, claims there is no racism in the League. "Every club have coloured players. One club have all coloured players. It's so easy to jump on the racist question. It happens both ways, you know, you get coloureds doing it." Chris Hassall, the chief executive of Yorkshire County Cricket Club, who is also secretary of the Yorkshire Cricket Board, says the Board are concerned about the incident. He describes Bowry as a "very mild-mannered guy who was deeply upset by the words alleged to have been used against him". He says it is up to the umpires to report all incidents involving racist abuse. "We can't tolerate this sort of thing, it is appalling." Quite.

Finger-flicking good in France

Our leftfielders continue to put their best feet forward. Practitioners of the various sporting eccentricities featured in these pages, from lawnmower racing to unicycling, have a habit of going on to greater things. Now we have news of another commendable achievement, this time from the wonderful world of sand marbles. Remember Jamie Lee Whitehouse, the little lad from Wolverhampton who won the British Championship on the Isle of Wight in June? Well, competing with the big boys, and girls, at the World Final in Royan, France, last week, he flicked his way to fourth place. Xavier Michelet, a 29-year-old truck driver from Le Mans, won the Mondial Billes Championship but, doubtless to Jamie's chagrin, the runner-up was an 11-year-old Belgian girl, Maxime Fourndeau, with a 15-year-old Bulgarian, Milen Dimitrov, third. Heats for next year's finals will be held at local shopping centres here in October. Roll up, as they say.

Moth proof against the developers

This one comes from the realms of Victor Meldrew's "I don't believe it" lexicon of the improbable. Britain's oldest shooting club has been saved from extinction - by a moth. It seems that the Wimbledon Park Rifle Club in south London, formed in 1904, were about to be blasted into history by developers, who have purchased the site and want to build a block of flats on it. But following objections from the club, Wandsworth Council have refused planning permission, citing the danger to indigenous "insect fauna". It transpires that the club harbour several species of lepidoptera, including the rare six-spot Burnet Moth and 20 species of butterfly which are known to breed on the site. Several areas of the club's land, where stinging nettles, food for moths and butterflies, have been allowed to develop, have been set aside as an important habitat for breeding purposes. "Obviously we are delighted, even though the developers are appealing," says the club captain, Martin Honey, who happens to be a biologist. "We'll continue the fight to preserve the club - and the moths." Bullseye for them. Let's hope the developers are mothballed.

Burning up the mountains

British marathon running seems to have gone downhill fast. But uphill? That's another story, and one which brings another nicely triumphant tale. A little-known British athlete is being hailed as something of a superhero in Switzerland after making history by winning, for the third time, an event which involves running 6,000 feet up a mountain and down the other side. Swiss newspapers call 30-year-old Billy Burns, from Preston, "The British Rocket", and the best mountain-racer of the age. Salford Harrier Burns, who completed the 20-mile Sierre-Zinal mountain marathon in 2hr 39min 5sec, competed for England in the Commonwealth Games but just missed out on Olympic selection as fourth-placed Briton in the London Marathon. Shame for Burns they didn't run it up Mount Pleasant.

United by fan power

Manchester United have never had the reputation of being the most fan-friendly club, but it may be a sign of changing times at Old Trafford that Shareholders United (the club's share-holding supporters' group) are deeply involved in Supporters Direct, a new initiative to be launched at London's Birkbeck College on Tuesday. The idea is to give fans a greater say in how their clubs are run. "A couple of years ago we couldn't have hoped for anything like this," says Birkbeck's School of Management head Professor Jonathan Michie, the chairman of Shareholders United. "At one time there would have been complete hostility, but United have created a Fans' Forum and given us a place on it. Now it is almost inconceivable that anyone would try to buy the club without first coming to us and discussing it." Even Sir Alex Ferguson welcomes the government-backed launch. "It can only be good for the game," he says. Wow!

insidelines@independent.co.uk

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