England cricket bosses promise 'wide-ranging' response to racism after crisis meeting

Governing authorities 'apologise unreservedly' to whistle-blower Azeem Rafiq

English cricket's governing body has pledged “wide-ranging action to tackle discrimination” after a summit of the game's leading representatives on Friday.

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) said it would reveal its action plan next week after damaging racism allegations that have plunged the game into crisis.

Whistle-blower Azeem Rafiq this week recounted in Parliament the incidents of discrimination he endured while playing for Yorkshire County Cricket Club.

Tom Harrison, the ECB's under-pressure chief executive, is facing scrutiny over his handling of the sport’s continuing racism scandal.

ECB representatives met with bosses of the 18 first-class counties, the Professional Cricketers’ Association, the MCC and others from the non-first-class counties and recreational game, when a broad agreement was said to have been made to deal decisively with the issue.

“Cricket today committed to taking wide-ranging action to tackle discrimination and promote inclusion and diversity at all levels," a statement read.

“The group worked through a series of actions that aim to tackle the serious questions being asked of the sport. Each individually agreed to consult with their stakeholders before coming together as a game next week and publishing further details.”

Mr Harrison insists he has no plans to leave his ECB role and wants to help cricket address its problems.

“I did receive the backing of the game today,” Mr Harrison said on Sky News outside the Oval cricket ground after the meeting.

“I feel very determined to lead this change through the game and make sure this plight is addressed in the game.

“As a father of two girls, I do want to make sure I leave a game that has absolutely the right, safe kind of environment for everyone to feel welcomed and for everyone to feel a sense of belonging in.”

A joint statement attributed to the combined attendees credited Rafiq with starting the conversation that has dominated the game in recent weeks.

It contained the latest in a long line of apologies to those who have been victimised in the sport followed by a promise to regain the moral authority to lead.

“Azeem Rafiq has shone a light on our game that has shocked, shamed and saddened us all. Racism and discrimination is a blight on our game,” it read.

Watch: Azeem Rafiq describes the racism he endured at Yorkshire

“To Azeem and all those who have experienced any form of discrimination, we are truly sorry. Our sport did not welcome you, our game did not accept you as we should have done. We apologise unreservedly for your suffering.

“We stand together against discrimination in all its forms, and are united as a sport to act. We will continue to listen, and make swift, positive changes to the culture of the game. We will embrace and celebrate differences everywhere, knowing that with diversity, we are stronger.

“Today, as a game, we discussed a series of tangible commitments to make cricket a sport where everyone feels safe, and everyone feels included. We will now finalise the detail and publish these actions next week. Our game must win back your trust.”

“We stand together against discrimination in all its forms, and are united as a sport to act

Mr Harrison insisted the various organisations of the cricket network coming together to unite against discrimination on Friday was a statement of intent.

“For now, this is a moment to celebrate the fact we have been able to agree change very quickly across the whole of English and Welsh cricket," he said.

“They were all present today as the statement indicates and I don’t think there is one person in English and Welsh cricket that doesn’t feel the necessity to take these steps and to make the initial changes to eradicate this situation of racism in cricket and take it out forever.

“That is what is important here and once we have taken those initial steps we will come back with more measures that ensure we go wider with this issue. Today is a statement of intent as much as anything to try and regain the trust of cricket fans and families around the country.”

Updated: November 19th 2021, 7:03 PM