Ashraf Ali Siddiqui looks at an intriguing issue
It is indeed a pity that cricket has not been able to brush-off the stigma of racism within its ranks. Just a few months before this ugly spectre raised its head making many people associated with the game to quit the scene in disgrace. In the latest episode in this respect Cricket Scotland risks losing almost £500,000 in annual funding if it does not urgently implement the recommendations of a report that is expected to find institutional racism within the sport.The entire cricket board took the dramatic step of resigning ahead of the publication of the findings of what has been described as a devastating independent investigation.
Cricket Scotland’s outgoing directors have also issued an apology to anyone who was abused or discriminated against after Scotland’s all-time leading wicket-taker Majid Haq and former team-mate Qasim Sheikh sparked the investigation by detailing allegations of racism. Majid Haq and his former team-mate Qasim Sheikh made a series of allegations of racism within Scottish cricket last November. Haq, who is now 39, had represented Scotland over a 13-year period but failed to play again following a tweet during the 2015 World Cup in which he said that it was always tougher when one is in the minority.
Haq represented Scotland on more than 200 occasions but did not play again after being sent home from the 2015 World Cup. Haq stated that as an ethnic minority cricketer, one needs to perform twice as well as a white counterpart to get the same opportunities. Safyaan Sharif, another Scottish international, mentioned that racism and discrimination was clearly an issue in cricket. He added that as a player himself he was very hopeful about his future but his futures ambitions were dashed,
Haq and Sheikh voiced their concerns last November following a series of racism allegations in English cricket, notably by the former Yorkshire and England spin bowler Azeem Rafiq. Sheikh said that they were lucky to play for their national team but lost their places after previously speaking out. Haq and Sheikh took the decision to speak out following the scandal in Yorkshire cricket and allegations by Azeem Rafiq of institutional racism within English cricket. Although Rafiq’s testimony centred on his experiences in Yorkshire, allegations of racism have since followed across the country.
The ECB have faced persistent criticism over the speed and scope of its action but there have been no senior resignations within the organisation over the issue. The former West Indies bowler Michael Holding said last year that the ECB were lacking in backbone and had been weak in dealing with the issue. Former umpire John Holder said that there had been a regime of gross incompetence. Holder had previously called for an investigation into the lack of diversity among umpires.The ECB has charged seven unnamed people in relation to their Yorkshire investigation and have launched an action plan to tackle racism.
Sportscotland, which is the national agency for sport in Scotland and last year provided £460,000 in funding to Cricket Scotland, said that it would take immediate steps to provide significant additional governance and leadership support. Majid was sent home from the World Cup in 2015, never to play for his country again and Shaikh never played again making Shaikh to state that these types of overreactions suggest that they were treated differently because of the colour of their skin compared to their white counterparts. It has also been made clear that all the review’s recommendations should be implemented and, as a last resort, there could be discussions about future funding in order to ensure that the required changes are made. Cricket Scotland said that it was committed to working in partnership with Sportscotland.
In their resignation letter the board of Cricket Scotland said that the review had achieved an unparalleled level of engagement and would be transformative for Scottish sport. The board publicly apologised to everyone who has experienced racism, or any other form of discrimination, in cricket in Scotland. The directors said that they had begun a governance overhaul and a commitment to deliver a thorough, fair and speedy resolution to the issues raised about racism. TW