“It feels like an earthquake hit us,” said Tom Harrison on Friday afternoon. The ECB chief spoke of Lords who had finally ratified an action plan to combat racism and all forms of discrimination at all levels of cricket.
The fact that it arrived two days later than expected speaks for the challenges in putting together such a work that at first glance looks very similar to the earlier iterations. The difference this time is the climate around the game and its perception. It has never been so toxic from the outside. It has never been easier to change from the inside.
Cricket stumbled into this area: it forced most of the trail before taking more conscious steps, of which the 12 parts of these five points are just one. Everything from education, investigation, and recruiting is in place throughout.
The desire for this “meaningful change” was sparked by the stories of Azeem Rafiq and others who revealed a rotten core, full of evidence previously viewed as anecdotes. The cynics have wondered if the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) is just reacting to the bad publicity, and to be fair, that’s not a bad thing. Harrison pointed out Friday that the game “is portrayed in the world’s media in the worst possible way” and no doubt this public humiliation has forced all English cricket institutions to deal with these matters as soon as possible.
Now comes the hard part – actually pulling off the deeds. And the difference this time around is that they actually have to happen. The measures described in relation to locker room culture, mass behavior, or anti-minority bias recruiting, for example, are on the pages of previous manifestos, but will now be more susceptible to scrutiny by the public and government. The danger of the ânuclear optionâ of an independent regulatory authority, as Sport Minister Nigel Huddleston put it, will remain on the heads of the ECB for the foreseeable future.
Undoubtedly, this plan doesn’t have all of the answers, but the question to be asked is how is cricket setting the acres of land to catch up? What we’ve found in the last 18 months is that it was an environment where prejudice was allowed to flourish in society. Hence, the question will be how effectively they will develop if they hurry up. As oven-ready as these suggestions may be, they are put in a microwave.
All of this has many parts – stakeholders, if you will – and as always with this type of joint advancement, change will only be as fast as the slowest (ergo, most reluctant). A snapshot of this was made available last Friday during the in-game meeting in the oval.
A collective of the ECB, the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), the Professional Cricketers’ Association (PCA), the National Counties Cricket Association (NCCA) and the First Class and Leisure County Cricket Network discussed far-reaching measures to combat discrimination and promote Diversity and inclusion at all levels, all offer unanimous support. However, the public statement issued was full of platitudes. A by-product of the 51 present who want to be part of the solution but have very little idea what that solution might be. There’s a sentence about horse design, committees, and a camel that fits right here.
This is not to say that these discussions are not without the best of intentions, nor should it be assumed that the descent into leadership language is just a distraction. Though there’s a slight irony that administrators stick to what they know, at least for now. Something that has always been part of the problem.
Even with unanimous support, there will continue to be some dragging of counties into a world and mindset that should already have been the norm. The fear of colored gamblers, especially among the men, is that forcing changes too quickly will only exacerbate a certain malaise that many have complained about publicly and privately or have simply let themselves slip.
What is clear is that the ECB believes that administrative changes at the top of the game can come quickly, which is perhaps why this action plan took so long to be ratified. The goal of holding thirty percent of the positions in all top district and national district board meetings must be women, or in the original draft for April a “representative ethnicity” of the region was addressed. Now counties must show their work if they have not been able to stick to it.
A partnership is to be entered into with Sport England and Perret Laver – a recruitment firm – in order to use the program “Diversity in Sport Leadership” introduced in 2018, which prepares executives from the private sector for roles in leading sports organizations as well as for names already active in cricket.
Convincing them to get into cricket is not a certainty, just as convincing others to stay will be a challenge. On Wednesday, Mehmooda Duke resigned from her role as Leicestershire Chairwoman. Dyke was the only female chairman of a first class county and one of three female board members with an ethnic minority background.
The Independent Commission on Equity in Cricket (ICEC), established last year, received over 2,000 responses to its online survey, which went online on November 9th. In addition to allegations of racist abuse by current and former cricketers in connection with all 18 prime counties, comments on sexism and other forms of discrimination were commented on by those who are either still involved or have left cricket.
The introduction of a fully independent system for reporting, investigating and responding to complaints and allegations throughout the game has also been discussed and is at least another positive step in hitting whistleblowers more than halfway through. This ideally builds on the work of the ICEC under the direction of Cindy Butts.
The ICEC is still in the data collection phase. Once this is sufficiently completed, the commission moves on to the next phase with focus groups and face-to-face interviews focusing on these complaints, their reference and the lived experiences of those who are willing to come forward. In fact, there is a feeling that the situation that cricket is in is getting much worse as more stories permeate, be it public or private.
Harrison knows this too, and it was clear that he was somewhat disappointed that the measures he himself outlined could and should be more solid. âI know that there are people who think we should have gone further – and in fact, I am probably in this camp myself. The fact is, we need to get everyone to fully agree to all of these commitments. “
There is no doubt that Harrison feels this more than most. He’s under increasing pressure to step aside, a move fueled by Ms. Duke, who used her farewell statement to call for new leadership at the top of the game. And it was clear that his personal attachment to delivering what was said fueled his willingness to fight, to stay there and monitor these changes.
âI know that we are in the dock for words, words, words, blah, blah, blah, no action – that sort of thing. What we are trying to say here is that this is action oriented. ”
There is no doubt that these actions will come true. Time will tell if it’s worth it. For now, at least, English cricket as a whole is pointing in the right direction.