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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”.

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‘I’m a little bit disappointed in the lack of detail’

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.”

English cricket bowled over with £400m private equity bid for The Hundred | Business News

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) has received a £400m private equity approach that would see it relinquish majority ownership of The Hundred while raising funds to inject into the sport’s cash-strapped counties.

Sky News has learnt that the governing body has in recent weeks been handed an offer from Bridgepoint Group, the London-listed buyout firm, to buy a controlling stake in the newest format of the game.

A source close to the ECB said this weekend that Bridgepoint had proposed buying a 75% stake in The Hundred, potentially injecting £300m of new money into English cricket.

Allan Leighton, the serial company chairman who has worked with Bridgepoint on a number of its investments, is said to have been working with the firm on developing its proposed offer.

A bid was unlikely to succeed at the current time, the source added.

If the deal were to progress, each of the 18 counties which make up the sport’s domestic bedrock would receive a substantial sum at a time when many of them have seen their financial struggles deepen in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

One insider described the offer from Bridgepoint as “game-changing”, and suggested it was likely to win widespread support from county chairs.

The ECB’s response, however, is expected to be cooler, with a new leadership team likely to adopt a more sceptical approach to handing over control of the sport’s newest money-spinner.

Richard Thompson, the former Surrey County Cricket Club chairman, was recently installed as the ECB chair, saying he wanted it to become “the UK’s most inclusive sport”.

He has overseen the appointment of his former county colleague, Richard Gould, as the governing body’s new chief executive.

Mr Gould, a former chief executive of Bristol City Football Club, was an outspoken critic of The Hundred during his tenure at Surrey.

Coincidentally, the 2022 edition of the 100-ball format saw the Oval Invincibles – based at Surrey’s home ground – win the women’s tournament, while the Trent Rockets were crowned men’s champions.

According to the ECB, more than 500,000 people attended matches across this year’s competition, with a record 271,000 attending women’s matches.

More than 14m watched at least some of the tournament on Sky Sports – which shares a parent company with Sky News – and the BBC, the ECB added.

Sanjay Patel, managing director of The Hundred, said in September: “It’s been brilliant to see more families, more kids and record numbers attending the games this year.

“The Hundred is all about welcoming more people into cricket, and it has delivered on that again this year.”

Bridgepoint’s interest in taking control of The Hundred would be designed to “turbocharge investment” into English cricket, and especially into developing the women’s game, according to one person familiar with its offer.

The private equity firm has a long track record of investing into elite sport, having owned MotoGP for years as well as InFront, the media rights agency which helped to orchestrate the commercial development of the Winter Olympics.

More recently, it proposed a deal that would have seen it invest in the Women’s Super League in football, although talks failed to result in a formal agreement.

Bridgepoint’s offer for The Hundred has emerged at a time when deep-pocketed Indian Premier League (IPL) franchises prepare to snap up leading English players including the England test captain Ben Stokes and his predecessor, Joe Root.

The county game’s finances have been parlous for many years, with many sceptical that 50-over cricket will survive in the long term.

Earlier this month, England were crowned T20 World Champions after beating India in the final in Melbourne, Australia.

Bridgepoint and the ECB both declined to comment.

Board of Cricket Scotland resigns with immediate effect following racism claims | UK News

The board of Cricket Scotland has resigned with immediate effect following allegations of racism.

The directors sent the letter of resignation to the interim chief executive officer this morning.

It comes after Sky News revealed yesterday that a “devastating” review into Scottish cricket has found it be institutionally racist.

Scotland correspondent James Matthews reported that the review – expected to be published on Monday – has led to multiple referrals to a number of organisations, including Police Scotland, for racist behaviour.

A spokesperson for Cricket Scotland said: “Cricket Scotland will work in partnership with SportScotland with immediate effect to ensure appropriate governance, leadership and support is in place for the organisation and the sport in the days ahead, and these arrangements will be reviewed after the publication of the report into racism in cricket in Scotland and updates given accordingly.”

In the letter to the interim chief executive Gordon Arthur, the board wrote that “we are all truly sorry” to everyone who has experienced racism in Scotland, and “we believe we must now step aside to enable the required progress to be made in the coming months”.

The board had six members who stepped down.

A spokesperson for SportScotland said: “This has been an exceptionally challenging time for everyone involved in Scottish cricket.

“We have been made aware of the board’s decision and as the national agency for sport, we will take immediate steps to provide significant additional governance and leadership support to Cricket Scotland.”

Aamer Anwar, who is representing two of the complaints, said that his clients welcomed the resignations.

Leading wicket-taker spoke of abuse

The review was conducted following allegations made by Scotland’s all-time leading wicket-taker Majid Haq that Cricket Scotland was “institutionally racist”.

In an interview with Sky Sports, last November, Haq and former team-mate Qasim Sheikh spoke of abuse that both had suffered throughout their careers.

Both men said they were treated differently from team-mates because of the colour of their skin.

The following month, SportScotland appointed Plan4Sport – an organisation that specialises in issues around equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) – to conduct a review, which has taken contributions from several hundred people.

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Former Scotland cricket player Qasim Sheikh told Sky News he felt he was treated differently because of his skin colour

Cricket Scotland is ‘dysfunctional’

On Saturday, it was revealed that investigators will support the claims of institutional racism within Scottish cricket.

One source told Sky News: “The fundamental claim at the start of this was about institutional racism at the heart of cricket. This review concludes that it’s very much the case.”

Mr Anwar spoke to Sky News ahead of the report’s publication and said: “Cricket Scotland is dysfunctional and institutionally racist – if that is confirmed by this review, it will be devastating for Cricket Scotland.

“There are those within the organisation who should be ashamed of their treatment of Majid and Qasim and so many other cricketers who gave their lives to cricket but saw their careers taken away from them.

“In any other walk of life, the individuals responsible would find themselves out of a job, in a jail cell, or banished from public life.

“Yet, when it comes to cricket, they are rewarded with promotions and status.

“Racism exists in Cricket Scotland and my clients know that has been the case for many years, through generations of cricketers.”

Cricket - Holland v Scotland - Twenty20 International - The Brit Oval - 3/6/09 Scotland's Majid Haq Mandatory Credit: Action Images / Paul Harding
Majid Haq is Scotland’s leading wicket taker. Pic: Action Images/Paul Harding

Read more from Sky News:
Rafiq calls for ‘total clear-out’ of Yorkshire leadership
England Test captain vows to change cricket’s dressing room culture

Events in Scotland follow a racism scandal in English cricket.

Last year, several top officials resigned from Yorkshire County Cricket Club following allegations by former captain Azeem Rafiq.

He complained of institutional racism at the club and said abuse regarding his Pakistani heritage had left him close to taking his own life.