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ECB lacked ‘backbone’ for not calling out Lord Botham’s criticism of ICEC report

The former England all-rounder and Durham chairman described last summer’s findings on discrimination in cricket as “nonsense”.

Jamie Gardner
Tuesday 20 February 2024 11:36 GMT
The ECB has been accused of lacking “a moral backbone” in failing to respond to Lord Botham’s criticism of last summer’s ICEC report (Jason O’Brien/PA)
The ECB has been accused of lacking “a moral backbone” in failing to respond to Lord Botham’s criticism of last summer’s ICEC report (Jason O’Brien/PA) (PA Archive)

The England and Wales Cricket Board showed a lack of “backbone” in failing to call out Lord Botham’s criticism of a key report on discrimination in the sport, the chair of the report commission has told MPs.

The Independent Commission for Equity in Cricket report published last June found racism was entrenched in cricket and that women routinely experience sexism and misogyny within the sport. It found cricket was still an elitist sport with little to no focus given to addressing class barriers.

Former England all-rounder and Durham chairman Botham, 68, described the ICEC findings as “nonsense” and the commission of the report by the ECB as a “complete and utter waste of money”. He added that he had not been contacted by the ICEC for his opinions, and did not know of anyone who had.

ICEC chair Cindy Butts told MPs on the Culture Media and Sport select committee that she felt the ECB’s response to those comments had been weak.

“I was disappointed that the ECB didn’t call out Lord Botham, the chair of a first-class cricket county. His words carry weight. The ECB didn’t see fit to come out and actually say ‘this is wrong’,” she said.

“Not only did they stay quiet, they resisted calls from stakeholders and people who were concerned about Mr Botham’s comments and they chose to stay silent.

“I think they should have had a moral backbone on this issue.”

Butts said Botham’s response also raised concerns for her over how anyone blowing the whistle on discrimination at Durham might be treated.

“There are a number of untruths that he spoke about the report,” Butts said.

“But the most disappointing thing for me is that Lord Botham is the chair of a first-class county. What confidence can those within the county who may suffer racism, sexism, class-based discrimination have… that something will be done about it?

“I was personally disappointed, not least because he’s a sporting hero of mine. The impact Lord Botham had on me as a young working-class woman growing up in Shepherd’s Bush was really quite profound.”

The most disappointing thing for me is that Lord Botham is the chair of a first-class county. What confidence can those within the county who may suffer racism, sexism, class-based discrimination have... that something will be done about it?

ICEC chair Cindy Butts

ECB chair Richard Thompson told the committee in a later session that he had phoned Lord Botham after he made the comments “to question why”.

“I guess the ECB could have taken one or two views over that, my feeling was that we’re trying to reconcile, we’re trying to move forward and heal,” Thompson said.

“Lord Botham is entitled to his views, I didn’t agree with them. I made it very clear to him I didn’t agree with them. But we live in a democracy and he’s allowed to say those things.

“I could see what Durham were doing as a county and we’re happy to share their EDI reports, their action plans, and it was pretty clear that Durham were doing a very good job of reaching communities, reaching all sorts of minorities that other counties weren’t reaching.

“So I think whatever Lord Botham said it wasn’t representative of what Durham were doing as a club.”

Durham CCC have been contacted by the PA news agency for a response from Botham.

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