A report by MPs into the Azeem Rafiq racism scandal has recommended that the government makes any public funding for English cricket dependent on the sport showing progress in eradicating racism.
The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee report, published today, calls for the domestic game to “clean up its act” or face cuts following a hugely damaging series of revelations about the county game.
Yorkshire County Cricket Club (YCCC) remain under particular scrutiny after their former player Rafiq was found to have been the victim of racism and bullying – and the club initially refused to take action.
The DCMS said its inquiry had uncovered a serious mishandling of the situation by Yorkshire and the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), which it wants to draw up tests that those receiving funding must meet.
“We, like the Minister [Nigel Huddleston], are watching closely and fully intend to ensure that cricket cleans up its act,” the report said.
“We recommend that the Government ensures that any future public funds for cricket are dependent on continuous, demonstrable progress in getting rid of racism in both the dressing rooms and on the stands.
“We recommend that the England and Wales Cricket Board develop a set of key indicators by which they might measure their progress and then report to us on those indicators every quarter.
“We will invite Yorkshire County Cricket Club and the ECB to give evidence on their progress early in 2022.”
The series of events following the report findings from YCCC last year led to sponsors withdrawing from the club, a series of sackings and resignations, and the ECB suspending Headingley’s right to host international cricket matches – including those scheduled at the stadium for this year.
“It is evident to us that there is a deep-seated issue of racism in cricket,” the report added.
“More pertinent, it is evident to Yorkshire County Cricket Club and the England and Wales Cricket Board that there is an issue of racism in cricket.”
Rafiq, who was in tears when giving evidence at the committee hearing, said recently that he would like the club to be reinstated as an international cricket venue.
“I want to see England playing at Headingley this summer,” he said. “At first in all this I believed international cricket should be taken away from them. But they have done enough to warrant getting it back, for now at least.”
YCCC have installed Kamesh Patel, Lord Baron of Bradford, as interim chairman and brought their former players Darren Gough and Ryan Sidebottom into the coaching team, though the latter had to apologise this week after he gave an interview saying people should “forget” about the scandal.
In response to the report, Yorkshire chair Lord Bradford said: “There is a lot of work to do across cricket to create an inclusive, accessible and welcoming sport for people from all backgrounds.
“It is my fervent hope that Yorkshire County Cricket Club can become a beacon for action and change, and lead the way in delivering the urgent progress which the Committee has called for.
“We will provide regular updates on our progress, as well as working alongside the ECB to deliver its game-wide action plan.”
ECB interim chair Barry O’Brien added: “We are deeply sorry for the pain people have suffered and recognise the courage it has taken to speak out.
“By working with the game to deliver the Action Plan, and continuing to listen and learn from people’s experiences, we are determined to make cricket a stronger, more welcoming sport.”