SHow’s that fake Ashes war going? In early November, the issue for the headlines in English cricket was who would play in the death overs now that Tymal Mills was injured. Three weeks later, the government threatens to bring in an independent regulator to oversee the ECB, whose chief executive, Tom Harrison, is struggling to keep his job, because England’s most successful county club, which has lost its CEO and president and suspended his head coach, he has been called institutionally racist, while a large number of current players and commentators have been accused of racist and discriminatory behavior.
Less than a week ago, Australia was celebrating its first T20 World Trophy. They have now lost their test captain, Tim Paine, to a sexting scandal that occurred the last time England was in Australia, in 2017. Paine sent an unsolicited “cock photo” to a Cricket Tasmania employee with the caption “Kill me right now.” Four years later, it has, and Australia now has fifteen days to find a replacement. Cricket Australia cleared Paine of violating its code of conduct in an investigation they conducted at the time, but now that it’s finally made public, they’ve decided they don’t “tolerate their language or behavior” after all.
There are some common themes here, from gamers who seem oblivious to the impact their behavior has on their colleagues, who seem to feel free to abuse the power they have over people younger than themselves, and from bosses who have failed to force. those players. count until they are ashamed to do so.
This is the same Cricket Australia that was making a great game with its plan to commission two new statues of female cricketers as a demonstration of its “commitment to challenging ourselves to continue to address gender inequality in our game”, even as they were sitting on a report. on Paine’s behavior, the same ECB that had its players wear “anti-discrimination shirts” as a sign of their “collective stance against any form of discrimination in cricket”, even as they, and Yorkshire, followed up on the allegations of Rafiq, which had been done the year before.
This is the behavior of executives whose principles are dictated by public relations, who believe in doing the right thing as an exercise in damage limitation. The ECB did so again on Friday, issuing a statement after its “all-party meeting” that offered a series of topics on “making cricket more open and inclusive” and “ensuring effective governance and leadership.” and promises of “a series of tangible commitments to make cricket a sport where everyone feels safe and everyone feels included.” There was absolutely no information on what, exactly, those tangible commitments might be. Apparently, they still need to “consult with your stakeholders “before finalizing the details.
It is a salad of bureaucratic words, institutional quackery leavened with meaningless poster slogans such as “we stand together against discrimination in all its forms” and “our game must regain your trust”, the language of people who have forgotten how to speak honestly and who are desperately out of touch with the basic human emotions at stake here.
One of the great lessons from all this is that language matters, how a small sentence, even when it is apparently a joke, can cause lasting pain and trauma. This week the executives of the ECB have given us a variation on the same lesson, it has been a long demonstration of how it is possible to say so much and not have any real impact.
“We are very sorry,” the statement said. How comforting to know that it is not one of his insincere apologies. And a sincere apology, Rafiq said in parliament on Tuesday, was “all I ever wanted.” How they must wish they had given it to you then, in plain and direct language, some of those same Yorkshire people who have been accused of discriminating against you are supposedly famous. The attorneys who (imagine) are examining your statements appear to be more verbose.
In the midst of the storm of accusations, accusations and apologies, Rafiq made one when screenshots began circulating on social media showing a series of anti-Semitic messages he had sent 10 years earlier.
And usually his was a role model for everyone else: quick, absolute and humane, it seemed like he had written it himself, rather than on their behalf. Rafiq’s messages did not diminish his testimony about the club’s culture. If anything, they are further proof of how common racist language was in Yorkshire while playing there.
It is too late for a pardon to be sufficient now, even if the ECB was able to give a good pardon. It has been 14 months since Rafiq first described how he had considered suicide due to the institutional racism he had faced at the club, and sorry is not enough. Not anymore. The speed with which all this has collapsed is inversely proportional to the time in which it has been built and all the years of institutional failure to tackle the problem.
Rafiq was the crack that broke the dam. The ECB says more than 1,000 people have contacted its investigation into discrimination in cricket in the last week alone. It has already grown much more than they are capable of handling. The ECB can’t even be trusted to run a cricket competition without alienating the vast majority of cricket fans, and that’s what it’s supposed to be good at. The idea that they are somehow equipped to tackle a social, political and cultural problem of this size is absolutely ridiculous.
If there is something positive in all this, it is that everyone now has a clear idea of the magnitude of the problem that sport has been fighting, and there are, even at the ECB, a lot of good people fighting it. Australia doesn’t have that yet, and there is also a distinct sense that there is a broader problem lurking below the surface. But then you don’t have to look much, or ask too loud, to find evidence of endemic sexism in English cricket. The Ashes are three weeks away and the two countries are heading to Brisbane.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism