ECB pledges to make cricket more inclusive – as Azeem Rafiq questions whether reforms will ‘stop the racism I experienced’ | UK News
The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) has pledged to make the sport “a game for everyone” by introducing an independent regulator and investing £25m a year into the women’s game.
A report in June by the Independent Commission for Equity in Cricket (ICEC) found racism, sexism, elitism and class-based discrimination was “widespread and deep-rooted” within the sport.
It said women in cricket were treated as “second-class citizens” and recommended the ECB strive to ensure equal pay on average at domestic level by 2029 and at international level by 2030.
Setting out its formal response to the findings on Monday following a three-month consultation, the ECB committed to a new independent cricket regulator responsible for enforcing regulations and carrying out investigations.
It also said it would invest £25m a year above the revenue it receives from the women’s game into growing women’s and girls’ cricket at all levels until at least 2028 – which comes after the ECB announced in August that England Women will earn the same match fees as the men’s side.
Other reforms include tripling the number of girls’ club teams by 2026, providing support and training across the cricket network to enhance understanding of discrimination and the management of complaints across the cricket network, more ambitious targets for gender and ethnic diversity, and developing action plans to tackle specific barriers facing state school and black children.
ECB chair Richard Thompson said: “This response represents a set of actions that will accelerate and intensify our work to make cricket a game for everyone, actions that cricket can deliver and fund within an achievable timeframe. It builds on a huge amount of work which is already under way right across the network.
“Cricket hasn’t got it right in the past, but this is an opportunity to move forwards together.”
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However, former Yorkshire player Azeem Rafiq, said he was “disappointed” with the lack of detail and clarity in the ECB’s response.
He told Sky News: “There are a couple of positives, but I just expected a little bit more, it’s quite frustrating.”
While he welcomed some of the initiatives as “a step in the right direction”, he questioned whether the actions would “stop the overt racism that I experienced”.
In July, Yorkshire County Cricket Club was fined £400,000 and had a total of 52 points deducted over its handling of the racism scandal linked to Rafiq.
The ICEC inquiry collected evidence from more than 4,000 people and found the sort of discrimination and abuse faced by Rafiq was widespread.
“People are still getting in touch about experiences and really struggling to know where to go and who to trust,” he said.
“A stronger response today would have helped change that.”
“I’m not sure they have listened,” he continued, adding: “I think they have listened to people who have told them what they wanted to hear, and that is why change is so difficult.”
ICEC chair Cindy Butts said: “We are carefully considering the ECB’s published response to our recommendations, we will share our considered view when we give evidence to the CMS [Culture, Media, and Sport] select committee.”