Cricket’s governing bodies promise to ‘tackle discrimination’ at crisis meeting

Tom Harrison, the England and Wales Cricket Board’s chief executive, faced scrutiny over his handling of the ongoing scandal.

Rory Dollard
Friday 19 November 2021 17:03
ECB chief executive Tom Harrison has come under fire over the game’s response to allegations of racism (Victoria Jones/PA)
ECB chief executive Tom Harrison has come under fire over the game’s response to allegations of racism (Victoria Jones/PA)

Cricket’s leading decision-makers have promised “wide-ranging action to tackle discrimination” after a crisis summit at The Kia Oval, but details will not become clear until next week.

An all-game meeting took place on Friday with Tom Harrison the England and Wales Cricket Board’s under-pressure chief executive, facing scrutiny over his handling of the sport’s ongoing racism scandal.

ECB representatives met with chairs of the 18 first-class counties, the Professional Cricketers’ Association, the MCC and others from the non-first-class counties and recreational game and emerged claiming a broad agreement to deal decisively with the issue.

A statement read: “Cricket today committed to taking wide-ranging action to tackle discrimination and promote inclusion and diversity at all levels.

“The group worked through a series of actions that aim to tackle the serious questions being asked of the sport. Each individually agreed to consult with their stakeholders before coming together as a game next week and publishing further details.”

Harrison insists he has no plans to leave his role as ECB chief executive and wants to help cricket address its problems.

“I did receive the backing of the game today,” Harrison said on Sky News outside the Oval after the meeting. “I feel very determined to lead this change through the game and make sure this plight is addressed in the game.

ECB chief executive Tom Harrison, left, has no plans to step down (Victoria Jones/PA)

“As a father of two girls, I do want to make sure I leave a game that has absolutely the right safe kind of environment for everyone to feel welcomed and for everyone to feel a sense of belonging in.”

A joint statement attributed to the combined attendees, credited whistleblower Azeem Rafiq with starting the conversation that has dominated the game in recent weeks.

It contained the latest in a long line of apologies to those who have been victimised in the sport followed by a promise to regain the moral authority to lead.

“Azeem Rafiq has shone a light on our game that has shocked, shamed and saddened us all. Racism and discrimination is a blight on our game,” it read.

Azeem Rafiq’s racism allegations have dominated the game in recent weeks (House of Commons/PA)

“To Azeem and all those who have experienced any form of discrimination, we are truly sorry. Our sport did not welcome you, our game did not accept you as we should have done. We apologise unreservedly for your suffering.

“We stand together against discrimination in all its forms, and are united as a sport to act. We will continue to listen, and make swift, positive changes to the culture of the game. We will embrace and celebrate differences everywhere, knowing that with diversity, we are stronger.

“Today, as a game, we discussed a series of tangible commitments to make cricket a sport where everyone feels safe, and everyone feels included. We will now finalise the detail and publish these actions next week. Our game must win back your trust.”

Harrison insisted the ECB, MCC, PCA, NCCA and the first-class and recreational county cricket network coming together to unite against discrimination on Friday was a statement of intent.

Our game must win back your trust

Joint statement from combined attendees

He said: “For now this is a moment to celebrate the fact we have been able to agree change very quickly across the whole of English and Welsh cricket.

“They were all present today as the statement indicates and I don’t think there is one person in English and Welsh cricket that doesn’t feel the necessity to take these steps and to make the initial changes to eradicate this situation of racism in cricket and take it out forever.

“That is what is important here and once we have taken those initial steps we will come back with more measures that ensure we go wider with this issue. Today is a statement of intent as much as anything to try and regain the trust of cricket fans and families around the country.”

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