The Equality and Human Rights Commission will be asked to conduct an investigation into racism in English cricket following a number of disturbing revelations from black and Asian players and umpires about their experiences in the game, the Guardian can reveal.
A letter will be sent this week to the EHRC by Mohammed Patel, the solicitor acting for the former Test umpire John Holder and reserve umpire Ismail Dawood who have issued a claim in the employment tribunal against the England and Wales Cricket Board on grounds of racial discrimination. But the letter will also address wider concerns about institutional racism in English cricket.
It comes just days after a group of MPs, including the former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, signed an early day motion in parliament expressing “alarm” at the ECB’s “failure to address the institutional racism that is present at all levels of the game”.
The prominent human rights lawyer and former judge Peter Herbert, who has been advising the MPs, said that while the EHRC was not compelled by law to act, it was important it did so as the ECB remained “frozen in time around 1990 – and had not moved with the times”.
Herbert told the Guardian: “We will be writing to the EHRC and asking them to conduct an investigation on racism in cricket. There needs to be a root and branch reform from the grassroots upwards. It can’t just be a tick-box exercise.”
Herbert said that while the ECB had been given £60m between 2009 and 2017 to promote equality and diversity it had failed to do enough to make the game reflect modern Britain.
He cited the lack of diversity in senior positions, the “minimal” funding to African, Caribbean and Asian cricket associations, and a growing number of concerning comments from former players and officials alleging racism in the game.
The former England opener Michael Carberry said last year “cricket is rife with racism” while Azeem Rafiq, the former England under-19 captain, filed discrimination and harassment proceedings against Yorkshire after alleging “institutional racism” at the club. Yorkshire’s investigation into his claims continues.
The ECB is also facing legal action by Holder, who believes he was dropped after raising concerns about alleged ball-tampering by the England team in 1991, and Dawood who are seeking compensation and a recommendation on the ECB’s future conduct.
“John and Ismail are probably the most unrevolutionary people you can find,” said
Herbert, who pointed out there had not been a non‑white British umpire in Test cricket for 30 years since Holder was dropped. “They are just people who just are deeply unhappy with the unfairness of it and have been left out in the cold.”
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Herbert also called on the government, which is expected to hand the ECB tens of millions of pounds of public money to help it come through the pandemic, to better hold cricket to account by making anti-racism and equality and diversity targets within cricket a ministerial priority, and to ensure the ECB reported annually on progress.
When asked for its response to claims of institutional racism and being referred to the ECHR, an ECB spokesperson told the Guardian: “We have established the independent commission for equity in cricket, which is chaired by Cindy Butts, to examine all issues relating to race and equity in cricket. It will play an important role in helping us to listen and understand the reality of the inclusion challenges in the game, so that we can focus our efforts on ensuring that more people can say that ‘cricket is a game for me’.”