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England cricket risks nuclear option from regulator, sports minister warns | ECB

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The government is ready to take the nuclear option with English cricket if it doesn’t get its house in order over racism, Sports Secretary Nigel Huddleston warned after criticizing the game for kicking the issue in the tall grass for years.

Huddleston said he found former Yorkshire player Azeem Rafiq’s testimony to MPs poignant and alarming. Speaking to the same select committee for digital, culture, media and sports on Thursday, he revealed that he had met Tom Harrison, the chief executive of England and Wales, Cricket Boards, and had been assured he will do everything what is needed to correct the error. faults.

But Huddleston also brought the sport to the fore, saying that if it didn’t make demonstrable changes within weeks and months, the government was ready to step in. The Secretary of State, Nadine Dorries, has been very clear to me that if we don’t take enough action, we as a government will intervene in whatever way we can, Huddleston said, before suggesting the nuclear option would be to create an independent regulator and examine the financial flows of public money into sport.

Huddleston reminded cricket that the fan-led review in football, which is expected to recommend an independent regulator when it reports this month, had come about because of the sport’s failure to get its act together. With cricket, I’d say the clocks are ticking on this, maybe we can go that route too.

However, he said the government had to be very careful about cutting investments because a lot of Sport Englands cricket financing was backing schemes that promote diversity. What we all want is for cricket to get its house in order and its house in order and solve this problem, he said.

Nigel Huddleston watches a game at Edgbaston in 2020
Nigel Huddleston is watching a game in Edgbaston in 2020. The Sports Secretary said he believed the ECB could get the cricket house in order. Photo: David Davies/PA

Huddleston also agreed with MPs that Rafiq’s treatment of Yorkshires showed they were institutionally racist. I think so, to the extent that racist language was normalized and considered acceptable and some people didn’t seem to realize or acknowledge that what they were doing and saying was racist, and I think that’s probably the definition of institutional racism , he said. .

But, as Huddleston made clear, it wasn’t just Yorkshire that was a problem. As early as 2014, academic Thomas Fletcher had prepared two reports, first for the ECB and a year later for Yorkshire, examining how British Asians were treated in the game. Yet both had been seated.

The speed with which Yorkshire appears to have responded to Azeem Rafiqs’ concerns appears to have been extremely slow, which is why that raises questions about how seriously the sport takes the issues raised, Huddleston said. The Fletcher report was 2014. The Azeem Rafiqs case formally started in 2017. So we have seen that this has clearly been kicked in the high grass for years. That is not how it should be. So I think we need some time for the ECB and Lord Patel [Yorkshires new chairman], who is doing his assessment, to think about what actions can be taken, but I think they were all impatient here, including myself.

Harrison, meanwhile, is likely to come under pressure from some quarters when the 41 ECB members, including all 18 first-class provinces, the national provinces and the MCC, meet Friday afternoon. However, Huddleston seemed to suggest that the sports board should be given time when asked if he believed his executives had the talent and skills needed to change cricket.

Jack Brooks was reprimanded by Somerset for using racist language in 2012, the year he left Northamptonshire for Yorkshire.
Jack Brooks was reprimanded by Somerset for using racist language in 2012, the year he left Northamptonshire for Yorkshire. Photo: Harry Trump/Getty Images

I’d like to believe they do, Huddleston said. And certainly heard positive sounds. Tom has made his absolute sincere commitment to understand and resolve the issues.

He added: I’m not saying I’m absolutely confident at the moment. I have heard positive voices, but we will judge them by their deeds and their actions. The ECB has quite substantial and substantial resources. Cricket is not one of the poorer sports.

As the fallout from Rafiq’s testimony continues, Somerset has officially reprimanded Jack Brooks for using racist language in the past. The sailor was investigated for abusive tweets dating back to 2012, the year he left Northamptonshire for Yorkshire, as well as his use of the name Steve for his former White Rose team-mate Cheteshwar Pujara.

Brooks’ custom of refusing to use Pujaras’ first name against the wishes of the Indian butchers was discussed by Rafiq in the select committee. A statement from Somerset said: The club has decided to reprimand Jack, remind him of his responsibilities and require him to participate in extensive training on equality, diversity and inclusiveness.

The club has spoken extensively with Jack about the nature and substance of his comments. There is no doubt that these comments are unacceptable. Jack is ashamed and devastated that his comments have offended people and he has acknowledged that although they were made nearly a decade ago when he was less mature, the content of the posts was wrong. Jack has been honest and open throughout the investigation and has apologized unconditionally for his past mistakes.

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