I I think England cricketer Ollie Robinson should be punished for his racist tweets. Young or not, he knew what he was doing. But the real problem is that it is the product of an environment created over the years by the cricket authorities, among other agencies.
In 1948, there were between 30,000 and 50,000 blacks in Britain. There were British-born black rugby league players, renowned rugby union players, footballers and boxers, but not a renowned black British cricketer. Why? If blacks were here and they weren’t playing cricket, there must be something stopping them.
Historically, blacks in Britain resided in seaports. However, none of Kent, Essex, Middlesex, Surrey, Gloucestershire or Lancashire could find a single British-born black cricketer among them.
Immigration in the late 1940s and onward from the cricket-loving English-speaking Caribbean brought in some good players, but the counties largely rejected them. The cricket authorities did not like the way they played the game, aggressively. Some said they played like children, tough and smart.
In club cricket, new immigrants were forced to form their own teams because large, mostly white clubs did not allow them to become members or use their facilities. Very few of these Caribbean clubs had their own turf and generally played in parks. Then the Race Relations Act of 1968 opened the door for Caribbean immigrants to become members. It didn’t mean that racism would stop, but it did remove the unofficial color bar.
Some Caribbean cricketers played for the big white local cricket clubs on Saturdays and the little black clubs on Sundays. The small Caribbean clubs were the ones that produced the first-class cricketers, but they began to disappear because they could not afford to pay the hiring fees on land. The ECB (and its predecessor the TCCB) were aware of the financial difficulties of the clubs, but did nothing more than join the highly publicized chorus that blacks no longer like cricket. The question is, why didn’t the body responsible for the game of cricket in England help?
The West Indies cricket team triumphed in the 1970s and 1980s. They filled the grounds as the Indians do now. The Caribbeans watched and played for the counties, most imported to revitalize the game of the dying county. But the success of these imported players, along with the success of the West Indies team, generated animosity. Some former England players, such as Fred Trueman, were among the critics who openly called on counties to remove Caribbean-born players. Unfortunately, this exclusion also included many players of Caribbean origin who grew up in England. The trend of exclusion is still in play today.
In 1999, the Clean Bowl report was published with fanfare and then-ECB Director General Tim Lamb told the public that “complacency with racial equality is not acceptable” and “We must open our doors to everyone.” Twenty years later, and the same organization that sanctions Robinson have done very little with the report. They have done worse than Robinson by knowingly squeezing Caribbean cricket in England, by refusing to fund it, but no one is sanctioning them.
For 28 years beginning in 1992, the ECB did not appoint a non-white party official, until this year after John Holder and Ismail Dawood threatened them with a Labor Court case and named Devon Malcolm and Dean Headley. Why wouldn’t the ECB hire one of these officials when they had this great report on their desk?
Over the past four years, they have spent almost £ 2 million on South Asian cricket, because India has become a great powerful body in cricket. I don’t want to take money from South Asians, but where is the money for Caribbean cricket in England? The ECB is looking for Cindy Butts (chair of the Independent Commission for Fairness in Cricket) to remove all its sins. They believe that she is Jesus Christ. She will report in June 2022, but by the time you sit down and consider its content, it will likely be 2024. In the meantime, what will happen to the already struggling Caribbean cricket clubs? I am of the opinion that the ECB will be happy with his disappearance.
The diversity and inclusion section on the ECB’s website says that 11% of its workforce is South Asian and 89% White. I find it extremely difficult to understand how in central London they cannot find a single black person to employ in the ECB office.
The county cricket academy system was developed by middle-class whites for middle-class whites. The attendance schedules of young men and women at these academies are mostly inappropriate for the working poor who are expected to accompany their children to the activity. Additionally, state school cricketers are unfairly expected to compete with those in schools that pay fees with year-round cricket facilities and training for limited cricket academy seats. However, this is supposed to be a sport for everyone in Britain.
There are very few people of Caribbean descent on the committees of county cricket clubs, minor county cricket clubs, or county cricket foundations.
There are only a small number of level 3 or 4 coaches of Caribbean heritage. Blacks are missing at all levels of cricket, all the while paying taxes that they contribute to the agencies that provide funds for the ECB.
Outgoing Surrey CEO Richard Gould should get a lot of credit. Representatives from the African Caribbean Cricket Association came to see him in 2019 to exchange ideas on how to increase the participation of young people of Caribbean descent in cricket. Within a month he came up with the now impressive ACE program consisting of young people who supposedly don’t like cricket.
Why have the three CEOs, Lamb, David Collier and Tom Harrison, who have sat on that 1999 report not been asked questions? This is the real scandal. Why did Harrison wait until June 2020, when young people were running through the streets, to start talking about including people of Caribbean descent in cricket? Then the ECB decided not to put a penny on Caribbean cricket in its 2021 budget. It is very sad because there are some fantastic and talented young cricketers within the various Caribbean communities in England.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism