Friday, December 3

English Cricket Risks Regulator ‘Nuclear Option’, Sports Minister Warns | ECB

The government is willing to take the “nuclear option” with English cricket if it does not put its house in order above racism, Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston warned after criticizing the game for kicking the issue “in the tall grass for years”.

Huddleston said he had found former Yorkshire player Azeem Rafiq’s testimony to MPs “heartbreaking” and “alarming”. Speaking to the same sports, media, culture and digital media selection committee on Thursday, he revealed that he had met with the executive director of the Cricket Board of England and Wales, Tom Harrison, and they had given him “guarantees that he will do whatever is necessary to correct the evils ”.

But Huddleston also tipped off the sport, saying that if it didn’t start making demonstrable changes in weeks and months, the government was prepared to intervene. “Secretary of State Nadine Dorries has made it very clear to me that if we don’t see enough action being taken, then we as a government will intervene in whatever way is necessary,” Huddleston said, before suggesting that the “nuclear option “It would be to establish an independent regulator and analyze the financial flows of public money in sport.

Huddleston reminded cricket that the fan-led review on soccer, which an independent regulator is expected to recommend when it reports later this month, came because the sport failed to act together. “With cricket, I would say that time is running out on this, we could go that way too.”

However, he said the government should be very careful in cutting investment because much of Sport England’s cricket funding supported schemes that promoted diversity. “What we all want is for cricket to put its house in order and act together and solve this problem,” he said.

Nigel Huddleston watching a game at Edgbaston in 2020
Nigel Huddleston watching a game in Edgbaston in 2020. The Sports Minister said he believed the ECB could put the cricket house in order. Photograph: David Davies / PA

Huddleston also agreed with MPs that Yorkshire’s treatment of Rafiq demonstrated that they were institutionally racist. “I think it is, to the extent that racist language was normalized and deemed acceptable and that 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 racism. institutional. ,” he said.

But, as Huddleston made clear, it wasn’t just Yorkshire where there was a problem. As early as 2014, academic Thomas Fletcher had produced two reports, first for the ECB and then for Yorkshire a year later, which had studied how British Asians were treated in the game. However, they were both seated.

“The speed with which Yorkshire appears to have responded to Azeem Rafiq’s concerns appears to have been extraordinarily slow and therefore raises questions about how seriously the sport takes the issues raised,” he said. “The Fletcher report was from 2014. The Azeem Rafiq case formally started in 2017. So we have seen the fact that this has clearly been kicked in for years. That is not appropriate. So I think we need a little time for ECB and Lord Patel. [Yorkshire’s new chairman], which is conducting its review, to think about the actions that can be taken, but I think we are all impatient here, including me. “

Meanwhile, Harrison is likely to come under pressure from some quarters when the 41 members of the ECB, including the 18 first-class counties, national counties and MCC, meet on Friday afternoon. However, Huddleston seemed to suggest that the sport’s governing body should be given time when asked if it believed its executives had the talent and skills to change cricket.

Jack Brooks of Somerset celebrates after taking the wicket from Rishi Patel of Leicestershire on July 5, 2021
Jack Brooks was reprimanded by Somerset for using racist language in 2012, the year he left Northamptonshire for Yorkshire. Photograph: Harry Trump / Getty Images

“I’d like to believe so,” Huddleston said. “And we are certainly hearing positive noises. Tom has given his sincere and absolute commitment that he understands problems and wants to fix them. “

He added: “I am not saying that I am absolutely confident at the moment. I have heard positive noises, but we will judge them by their deeds and actions. The ECB has quite large and substantial resources. Cricket is not one of the poorest sports. “

As the fallout from Rafiq’s testimony continues, Somerset has officially rebuked Jack Brooks for past use of racist language. The shutdown was investigated for offensive tweets dating back to 2012, the year he left Northamptonshire for Yorkshire, as well as the use of the name Steve for his former White Rose teammate, Cheteshwar Pujara.

Brooks’ habit of refusing to use Pujara’s first name against the wishes of the Indian batsman was discussed by Rafiq on 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 inclusion.

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

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