ENGLISH CRICKET EXPOSED – Racist, Sexist. Classist and Elitist
R. Rose - Eye of the Needle
June 30, 2023
ENGLISH CRICKET EXPOSED – Racist, Sexist. Classist and Elitist

This is Carnival season, but cricket has played such an important role in the socio-political development of Caribbean society that I could not resist the temptation to publicize and comment on a most revealing report on the state of English cricket which was published earlier this week.

That Report was triggered by frequent allegations of racism in English cricket. These were heightened by shocking revelations of an Asian British cricketer, Azeem Rafiq, who played for the English county Yorkshire, one of the pillars of English cricket. which forced it to set up an official Enquiry. This had such significant repercussions throughout the English game that the English governing body itself was forced to set up an Independent Commission for Equity in Cricket (ICEC).

The Report of that Commission, which considered more than 4000 submissions from the public, was published on Tuesday of this week. It makes a number of shocking revelations, though not unfamiliar to those acquainted with English cricket. Such has been the influence of English cricket on both international cricket, and by virtue of colonial domination and influence, on social development in cricket-playing countries, that the Report is bound to have significant repercussions throughout the cricketing world.

Fittingly, the Report is entitled, “Holding up a mirror to Cricket”, but it is doubtful whether cricket authorities, the English in particular, would be happy to see what’s in that mirror. It makes no bones in charging that “Racism, Sexism, Classism and Elitism are widespread in English cricket”. This follows a two-year investigation which also considered inputs from some 4400 members of the public. The conclusions have stripped the hypocrisy of English-cricket, long masked by administrators, players, fans and the media alike, stark bare.

Among the conclusions are:

There is structural and institutional racism.

Women are treated as subordinates at all levels of the game.

There exists a prevalence of “elitism and class-based discrimination’’.

Black cricket has failed because of these institutional sins and needs a revival plan.

Because of distrust in the cricket authorities, many victims of discrimination do not bother to report instances.

Even umpires are guilty, regularly ignoring abuse and dismissing complaints at all levels of the game.

The charges of racism, not just in English cricket, but notoriously in that field, are well-known internationally and copiously documented. Yet they have never been seriously addressed and have continued to affect the balance in the game, whether administratively, on the field of play or even in the rules themselves.

In relation to English cricket, the Report concludes that “racism remains a widespread and serious problem in cricket across England and Wales”. But so institutionalized has it become and deeply connected to norms and practices in the wider society, that its nefarious effects were felt far beyond British shores.

We in the Caribbean (the so-called West Indies) know its effect very well. Cricket, referred to as “the gentleman’s game” was for a long time, the white man’s game in the Caribbean. In spite of the on-field dominance of black players, from George Headley, Learie Constantine, and the three Ws in our emergence on the Test scene, the white-dominated West Indies Board insisted on skin colour as the dominant criterion for captaincy of the regional team. Even public campaigns by the likes of the venerable C.L.R. James were ignored and it took the age of national independence before a black man, in the person of the legendary Sir Frank Worrell could be appointed full-time captain of the West Indies.

At the national levels too, race, class and elitism, schooling and social connections, determined whether one got selected, one’s role in the team and influence on the game. There were many excellent cricketers over the years who never got their due because of such discrimination. Even within the West Indies set-up, so-called “small islanders”, our own Alfie Roberts and Frank Mason for example, and Dominica’s Irvin Shillingford, were among the early sufferers.

Besides race, class and elitism, a prominent feature of discrimination in cricket, (in many other sports too) is that against women. The Report concluded that there is “evidence of a widespread culture of sexism and misogyny” in the game. It speaks of the negative effects of “the drinking culture” on the game and of male advances towards women, practices which continue to this day, not only in English cricket. It is disgraceful that in the 21st century women still have to fight for equal pay, and in many instances appropriate facilities and allowances.

Though the Report is on English cricket, mindful of our own history and its influences on the present, it provides a powerful opportunity for looking at discrimination in not just cricket, but sport in general. Our sporting authorities and governments should take the opportunity to review this phenomenon and to take appropriate remedial measures.

  •  Renwick Rose is a community activist and social commentator.