Azeem Rafiq says Middlesex chair Mike O’Farrell’s comments confirm an ‘endemic’ racism problem in cricket | Cricket News

Four cricket county chairs gave evidence to the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee on Tuesday; the DCMS committee are investigating the sport’s governance following Azeem Rafiq’s allegations of racial harassment and bullying at Yorkshire

Last Updated: 25/01/22 3:05pm

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Rob Dorsett reports on comments made by Middlesex chair Mike O’Farrell around the lack of diversity among young people in cricket at the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee meeting

Rob Dorsett reports on comments made by Middlesex chair Mike O’Farrell around the lack of diversity among young people in cricket at the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee meeting

Azeem Rafiq says Middlesex chair Mike O’Farrell’s comments around the lack of diversity among young people in cricket confirms an “endemic problem” the sport has with racism.

Rafiq’s allegations of racial harassment and bullying during his two spells at Yorkshire between 2008 and 2018 have resulted in the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) select committee investigating the governance of the sport.

The committee, which has previously warned of funding cuts if cricket fails to “clean up its act”, held a meeting on Tuesday, during which O’Farrell attempted to defend his county’s record on diversity and inclusion.

“The football and rugby world becomes much more attractive to the Afro-Caribbean community,” O’Farrell said.

Middlesex chair Mike O'Farrell has been accused of using 'racial stereotypes'

Middlesex chair Mike O’Farrell has been accused of using ‘racial stereotypes’

“And in terms of the South Asian community, there is a moment where we’re finding that they do not want necessarily to commit the same time that is necessary to go the next step because they prefer, not always saying they do it, they sometimes prefer to go into other educational fields and then cricket becomes secondary, and part of that is because it’s a rather more time-consuming sport than some others.”

Rafiq, who had moments earlier retweeted a post referencing O’Farrell’s comments, then appeared to directly address them himself.

“This has just confirmed what an endemic problem the game has,” Rafiq said. “I actually can’t believe what I’m listening to.”

Rafiq also responded in agreement to a tweet from Guardian journalist Barney Ronay criticizing O’Farrell for using the existence of a women’s section at the county as an example of diversity.

“Painful listen and just shows how far removed from reality these people are,” Rafiq wrote.

The meeting also saw evidence given by the chairs Yorkshire, Glamorgan and Hampshire, with the latter’s Rod Bransgrove also coming under fire from Rafiq for claiming Hampshire were “overachieving” in their efforts to improve diversity.

“In some areas I think we’re already there and probably overachieving in some areas,” Bransgrove said. “I think that we’ve identified what the issues are in our particular area and we are addressing them, and we’ve accelerated that process.”

Alongside an angry emoji, Rafiq posted: “Overachieving? Am I hearing this?”

Also reacting to the meeting on Twitter, former England cricketer Ebony Rainford-Brent was critical of O’Farrell’s comments.

“Honestly these outdated views in the game are exactly why we are in this position,” Rainford-Brent, who is a director at Surrey, wrote.

“Unfortunately the decision-makers hold onto these myths. ‘The Black community only like football, and Asian community only interested in education’ Seriously the game deserves better.”

Kick It Out warns against ‘biased and stereotyped’ views

The latest DCMS meeting came on the same day that a partnership between the ECB and anti-discrimination charity Kick It Out was announced.

The project, to which Sky have pledged £100,000, is part of a game-wide 12-point plan announced by the ECB in November to tackle discrimination and marks the first time the charity has ventured outside of football.

Following Tuesday’s hearing, Kick it Out chief executive Tony Burnett warned that stereotyping is likely to occur when there is a lack of diversity at board level.

“It’s interesting listening to the comments from Azeem and Ebony there,” Burnett told Sky Sports News. “We base our decisions and plans on facts and I’d love to see the data that backs up those comments really, to suggest that Black and Asian young people go into different sports for those reasons.

“We need to find the facts and the only way we find facts about why people are not getting into sports is by asking the questions of the relevant communities, not by listening to stereotypes and other ideas that are often drawn out of years of just biased and stereotyped views.

“I think we need to move from a situation, not just in cricket because we’ve seen this in football, of people who run sports who haven’t got any experience of working with different communities and therefore resort to stereotype.”

Echoes of Greg Clarke

Sky Sports News reporter Rob Dorsett said O’Farrell’s remarks were reminiscent of those made by former Football Association chair Greg Clarke to the same committee in 2020.

“I have to say these comments did leap out at me as quite shocking, although no members of the MPs in that DCMS committee picked up O’Farrell on them as he said those words.

“There were real echoes to what Greg Clarke, the chairman of the FA, said in front of the very same committee back in November 2020. Those comments from Greg Clarke, together with a number of ill-advised comments, cost Greg Clarke his job .

“I think I was a little bit surprised that none of the MPs picked up Mike O’Farrell on those comments. It did seem to play to certain racial stereotypes. And if you were being very critical, it sounds like cricket’s big bosses, criticsing a minority group for a lack of diversity in the game, so I don’t think we’ve heard the end of those comments just yet.”

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