Cricket’s stakeholders meet as racism crisis deepens

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A game-wide meeting will take place on Friday as cricket tries to get a grip on the racism scandal which has engulfed it this week.

Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston warned on Thursday the sport had to get its house in order in regard to discrimination and said the “nuclear option” was to introduce an independent regulator.

He said he had held talks with under-fire England and Wales Cricket Board boss Tom Harrison this week, and the game’s governing body will oversee a meeting at The Oval on Friday which had been scheduled before the crisis fully erupted this week, but will now be totally dominated by it.

The chairs of the 18 first-class counties will meet, joined by representatives of the 21 non-first class cricket boards, the national counties cricket association and the MCC, and it is understood there is some disquiet about the glacial pace and hands-off manner the scandal has been dealt with.

Meanwhile, whistleblower Azeem Rafiq has renewed his apology for sending anti-Semitic messages to a fellow player over a decade ago.

Rafiq’s harrowing claims of institutional racism during his playing career at Yorkshire forced the subject on to the agenda and his emotional appearance in front of a parliamentary select committee laid bare a range of specific allegations. But he was forced to reckon with his own prior shortcomings when The Times reported an offensive exchange between him and former Warwickshire player Ateeq Javid, during which he repeated offensive tropes.

Having already made a public apology, he gave an interview to the Jewish News and asked for forgiveness.

“I deserve all the flak I get from it. I’ve always said that if you apologise, you should get a second chance. But, obviously, I think in all cases it is for the victims to decide that,” he said.

“I don’t think I’m in any position to be asking the Jewish community on how they feel. All I can do is do my best, to show them that I am sorry. And time to understand and learn and educate myself to make sure that I’m improving myself.

“My actions over the weeks and months coming, will prove that I’m really sorry for every bit of hurt.”

He accepted the episode could damage him personally but insists it should not derail the wider movement he has helped set in motion.

“I think people discredit me. I think it could affect me but I don’t think it should affect the cause,” he said.

Alex Hales has apologised for “foolish and reckless behaviour” (Mike Egerton/PA)
Alex Hales has apologised for “foolish and reckless behaviour” (Mike Egerton/PA)

“If anything, I think it keeps the conversation right at the forefront of everyone’s minds. I see it as an opportunity for all minorities. And I just think we could all unite together, sit on one table and actually fight for the cause that I’m fighting for. The cause is bigger.”

Alex Hales has apologised for his “reckless and foolish behaviour” in painting his face black to attend a fancy dress party in 2009.

The former England batter, whose conduct is being investigated by the ECB and his county Nottinghamshire, was also named by Rafiq in his evidence to the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee.

Rafiq said former Yorkshire team-mate Gary Ballance’s derogatory use of the word ‘Kevin’ to describe any person of colour was an open secret in the England dressing room and alleged that Hales had named his dog Kevin because it was black.

Hales categorically denied the allegation, which is also now the subject of a Nottinghamshire investigation.

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