Spotlight turns on ECB as Government warn of ‘nuclear option’ amid Azeem Rafiq racism crisis

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Spotlight turns on ECB as Government warn of ‘nuclear option’ amid Azeem Rafiq racism crisis
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Tom Harrison has been warned of the Government’s “nuclear option” as he faces two defining days in his tenure as chief executive of the England and Wales Cricket Board and the fallout continues from Azeem Rafiq’s exposure of racism across the game.

Rafiq revealed his experiences of racism at Yorkshire in excruciating detail to MPs at the Department of Culture, Media and Sport’s Select Committee hearing in Westminster on Tuesday, naming a number of high-profile figures in the game and detailing how the system had failed him.

On Thursday, sports minister Nigel Huddleston warned that if the ECB “don't get their act together, then we have the nuclear option of legislating in order to potentially bring in an independent regulator”.

Huddleston added: “Tom Harrison has promised me that with every fibre of his being he will act. He knows and I know that we will judge them on their deeds, not their words. If they fail to act appropriately, we will not hesitate to act appropriately.”

Harrison claimed before the DCMS on Tuesday that he believes the ECB is fit for purpose in its role as both regular and promoter of the game in this country.

That will be under the microscope again when Harrison has a pair of important meetings over the next two days. Today, the ECB Board meets, before an “all-game” meeting at the Kia Oval on Friday. There, the ECB’s 41 members – the 18 first-class counties, the National Counties and MCC – will discuss the matter.

It was only last month that a crisis of confidence from the counties forced out Ian Watmore, the ECB chairperson. He was in the post for a little over a year, and is yet to be permanently replaced, which would leave a leadership vacuum at the ECB were Harrison to resign or be ousted.

Yorkshire are expected to dismiss head coach Andrew Gale, who was accused of being racist by Rafiq and is currently suspended pending an investigation into anti-semitic tweets he sent in 2010, and Martyn Moxon, the director of cricket, who is currently absent with stress.

Both men were accused by Rafiq of a lack of compassion in the workplace over the death of the bowler’s son in 2018.

Hutton and Mark Arthur, the beleaguered chief executive, have already resigned to begin what is shaping a full clearout at the club.

Former cricketer Azeem Rafiq giving evidence to the Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee (House of Commons/PA) (PA Media)
Former cricketer Azeem Rafiq giving evidence to the Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee (House of Commons/PA) (PA Media)

Rafiq said yesterday that he believes there is a way back for Gary Ballance, who he accused of extensive racism, in the game.

On Thursday, Somerset announced that they had “reprimanded” veteran seamer Jack Brooks, for posts from 2012. Before joining Somerset, Brooks played for Northamptonshire and Yorkshire.

The tweets, sent to England bowler Tymal Mills and another cricketer, Stewart Laudat, included the word “n***o”.

Brooks is also said to be the creator of the nickname “Steve” for Cheteshwar Pujara during his spell as an overseas player for Yorkshire, on account of the players’ claimed inability to pronounce the India batter’s first name.

Jack Brooks (Getty Images)
Jack Brooks (Getty Images)

Somerset conducted an investigation into the matter, concluding that Brooks would be reprimanded, and made to “participate in extensive training on Equality, Diversity and Inclusivity”.

A statement said: “Somerset CCC condemn the use of language which has any racist connotations.

“Jack agrees with this sentiment and is embarrassed and devastated that his comments offended people and he has acknowledged that, whilst they were made nearly a decade ago when he was less mature, the content of the posts was wrong and not in accordance with his personal values. Jack has engaged honestly and openly throughout the investigation and unreservedly apologises for his past errors.”

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