Middlesex chairman apologises for comments on Black and Asian interest in cricket

Former England player Ebony Rainford-Brent labelled Mike O’Farrell’s comments as ‘painful’ and ‘outdated’

Jack Rathborn
Assistant Sports Editor
Tuesday 25 January 2022 15:26
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<p>O’Farrell has been heavily criticised for comments made in front of the DCMS select committee </p>

O’Farrell has been heavily criticised for comments made in front of the DCMS select committee

Middlesex chairman Mike O’Farrell has apologised for his comments about Black and Asian interest in cricket.

Speaking at a Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) select committee hearing, O’Farrell claimed that prospective South Asian players preferred to pursue education, and that football and rugby were “more attractive” to people from the “Afro-Caribbean community”.

Former England player Ebony Rainford-Brent labelled O’Farrell’s comments as “painful” and “outdated”, while Azeem Rafiq claimed the comments highlighted the “endemic problem” in the sport.

In response O’Farrell has apologised, claiming a “misunderstanding”.

A statement read: “First and foremost, I wish to offer my wholehearted apologies for the misunderstanding that my comments made at this morning’s DCMS Select Committee hearing have evidently caused.

“I wholly accept that this misunderstanding is entirely down to my own lack of clarity and context in the answers I provided, and I am devastated that my comments have led to the conclusions some have made.

“For the purposes of clarification, I was aiming to make the point that as a game, cricket has failed a generation of young cricketers, in systematically failing to provide them with the same opportunities that other sports and sectors so successfully provide.

“Cricket has to take responsibility for these failings and must learn that until we make the game an attractive proposition for youngsters of all backgrounds to continue through the pathway into the professional game, much like other sports and sectors are doing, the game won’t make the progress it needs to.

“We at Middlesex are no different. We have an Academy side that contains in excess of 60% British born Asian and black young cricketers, and we must take responsibility for ensuring that the route into the professional game is as accessible and appealing as other sports or opportunities.

“I speak on behalf of the entire Club in saying that our desire is to see a first eleven walking out to play for the Club which is truly reflective of the broadly diverse county that Middlesex is today and that we will do all within our power to make that happen.

“Once again I apologise for any upset or hurt my earlier comments may have caused, that was most definitely not my intention.”

Rafiq has previously stated that the sport is "institutionally racist", with the DCMS releasing its report on 14 January.

And O’Farrell’s remarks this morning went unchallenged when asked about Middlesex’s record on diversity and inclusion.

He said: “The football and rugby worlds become more attractive to the Afro-Caribbean community,” O’Farrell stated. “In terms of the South Asian community, we are finding that they do not want to commit the same time that is necessary to go to the next step because they prefer to go into other educational fields.

“Cricket then becomes secondary. Partly because it is a more time-consuming sport than some others.

“That is changing with Twenty20 and the one-day game. We are finding that it is coming full circle because there is much more choice and variation in the game, and therefore the South Asian community, young men and particularly young women, are finding [cricket] a much more attractive sport. We are moving it forward, but not as fast as we would like to.”

Rafiq, whose allegations of racial harassment and bullying at Yorkshire have resulted in this investigation, was left hugely disappointed by the comments.

“Painful listen and just shows how far removed from reality these people are,” Rafiq wrote on Twitter. “Overachieving? Am I hearing this?

“This has just confirmed what a endemic problem the game has. I actually can’t believe what I am listening to.”

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