English cricket offers Azeem Rafiq apology and promises action on racism

  • Rafiq praised for 'shining a light on our game’ in joint statement
  • ECB chief executive Tom Harrison retains stakeholders’ backing

English cricket has issued an unreserved apology to Azeem Rafiq, saying the racism he experienced is a blight on the game, before promising to take swift measures to restore trust.

The apology, which came after crisis talks at the Oval between the ECB, first-class counties and the sport’s other key stakeholders, praised the former Yorkshire player for “shining a light on our game that has shocked, shamed and saddened us all” and committed to publishing a 12-point action plan on Wednesday.

“Racism and discrimination is a blight on our game,” the joint statement said. “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.”

Meanwhile, the ECB chief executive, Tom Harrison, whose job was thought to be under threat after a faltering performance in front of MPs on Tuesday, emerged from the meeting saying that he retained the backing of the game – and was now determined to enact change.

“I received the backing of the game today, absolutely,” he said. “And I’m determined to lead this change through cricket. I feel passionately about this issue. It’s something I feel to my core. I’ve been trying to drive an inclusive and diverse sport from the moment I arrived as chief executive in 2015. I feel very motivated and very supported to make sure that change happens in the game.

“What are the reasons we are experiencing cultural difficulties in the dressing room? What are the reasons this abhorrent behaviour of racism in our game has attacked the high performance space? These are the kind of areas we will take a much closer look at, which we will be publishing on Wednesday.”

Harrison’s comments were largely long on platitudes and short on specifics. However, he did admit: “What we need to do is make sure we’re listening to victims of racism. The ECB has those processes in place, I think in future it’s more than likely the ECB would step in immediately to take steps to understand and investigate fully.”

“We have had a focus on action today,” he added. “Speaking to cricket fans who will be looking very hard at the wider game for tangible action, that’s what we will be delivering. Whether it’s about cultural change in the dressing room, standards for recruitment of staff through the game, a range of different points over 12 areas. We will look for tangible action to make sure we are impacting on the ground.”

The talks came at the end of another torrid week for the sport, which began with Rafiq’s shocking revelations of institutional racism in cricket in front of the digital, culture, media and sport select committee. Since then another cricketer, Alex Hales, has apologised after a photograph of him emerged in blackface in 2009 while Rafiq has also apologised for antisemitic comments he made when he was 19.

On Thursday the sports minister, Nigel Huddleston, had warned cricket that the government would be prepared to take the “nuclear option” of imposing a regulator and looking at how the sport was funded if it did not enact significant change within weeks or months.

And cricket officials appear to be heeding that warning as they promised further talks and an action plan next week.

The Spin: sign up and get our weekly cricket email.

“We stand together against discrimination in all its forms, and are united as a sport to act,” they added in a statement. “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.

“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.”


Sean Ingle

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Azeem Rafiq accuses ECB of being in denial on racism in cricket
Azeem Rafiq has accused the ECB of actively attempting to discredit him and criticised cricket’s governing body for a lack of action

Simon Burnton

13, Dec, 2022 @5:14 PM

Article image
Cut English cricket’s funding over ‘deep-seated racism’, government urged
A parliamentary inquiry into racism in cricket recommends the government should cut the sport’s funding unless the ECB shows it is serious about tackling the matter

Sean Ingle and Simon Burnton

14, Jan, 2022 @12:01 AM

Article image
Alex Hales pictured in blackface as English cricket handed a new blow
English cricket has taken another blow after the Azeem Rafiq revelations with Alex Hales pictured in blackface at a New Year’s Eve party

Sean Ingle

19, Nov, 2021 @12:18 AM

Article image
Tom Harrison calls racism scandal an ‘earthquake’ as ECB unveils action plan
ECB chief executive Tom Harrison has called cricket’s racism scandal the ‘shock’ that can accelerate change in the sport

Chris Stocks

26, Nov, 2021 @3:02 PM

Article image
Cricket has made a start in tackling discrimination – it must see it through | Chris Grant
Though it has shied away from admitting structural racism, English cricket has acknowledged the need for wholesale reform. It’s a start

Chris Grant

26, Nov, 2021 @8:00 PM

Article image
Azeem Rafiq’s testimony on racism plunges English cricket into crisis
English cricket has descended into crisis after Azeem Rafiq’s testimony laid bare its failings on racism, bullying and dressing room culture, while also alleging a past drugs cover-up by Yorkshire

Ali Martin Cricket correspondent

16, Nov, 2021 @9:52 PM

Article image
Yorkshire investigate 'institutional racism' claims made by Azeem Rafiq
Yorkshire have begun an investigation into allegations of ‘institutional racism’ and a review of the club’s culture

Ali Martin

03, Sep, 2020 @6:48 PM

Article image
When it comes to racism in cricket, the ECB is the accused not the judge | Barney Ronay
The ECB does not get to act surprised at this week’s events, to dance away from responsibility – it has failed, repeatedly, to act

Barney Ronay

05, Nov, 2021 @8:30 PM

Article image
Yorkshire CCC are institutionally racist. For me there is no other conclusion | Jonathan Liew
The investigation panel may not have found sufficient evidence of racism at the club, but how else can the Azeem Rafiq saga be viewed?

Jonathan Liew

01, Nov, 2021 @10:00 PM

Article image
Headingley allowed to host England matches after ECB lifts suspension
Yorkshire took an important step on the road to staging international matches again when the England and Wales Cricket Board lifted its Headingley suspension on Friday

Tony Paley and agencies

11, Feb, 2022 @3:48 PM