Sunday, January 16, 2022

Grassroots cricket clubs could lose £2.5million after racism scandal, with charities braced for impact

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The England Cricket Board are being asked to provide evidence of how they are tackling racism at play, with funding at risk if they don’t ‘clean up’ their act.

The warning comes from the report by the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport selection committee, which was released after former Yorkshire player Azeem Rafiq made harrowing statements last November.

The racism scandal that has engulfed cricket could leave a £2.5million hole in core funding if the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) fails to “clean up its act”.

After Rafiq reported abuse suffered in Yorkshire over two periods from 2008 to 2018, the DCMS selection committee determined that “deep-seated” racism was at play. It recommended in its report that “the government ensures that all future public funding for cricket is conditional on continued, demonstrable progress towards eliminating racism both in the dressing rooms and in the stands”.

The DCMS committee’s report asked the ECB to provide quarterly progress reports on its efforts to eradicate racism in the game. The ECB and Yorkshire will be asked to give testimonies on their progress earlier this year, the committee said.

The ECB receives around £2.5m in government funding each year, which is earmarked for community and grassroots sport projects. The elite end of the game is largely funded by revenue from games and the sale of broadcasting rights.

And the news that the ECB is facing a cut in revenue earmarked specifically for community play has been met with concern by charities aiming to get underrepresented populations to play cricket.

A spokesman for Chance to Shine, whose work, funded in part by the ECB, has given nearly six million children a chance to play cricket, said I: “The funds that Chance to Shine receives from the ECB are not diverted from the government, but we recognize that a drop in income for one of our key partners poses a potential risk to our work.

“We truly believe that our work is more important now than ever and we are committed to continuing to bring communities together and inspire children of all backgrounds through cricket.”

Rafiq’s statement, saying his allegations of racism were ignored or not acted upon in Yorkshire, prompted others to speak out about their experiences. This led the committee to conclude that racism “wasn’t just a personal issue [for Rafiq] but an endemic problem in all of cricket”.

The DCMS report added: “We are closely monitoring and intend to ensure that Cricket cleans up its act. We were shocked by the language people used in correspondence with us after the hearing.

“That, along with stories running in the media to discredit him [Rafiq], show that eradicating racism from the game will be a long and difficult road. However, this is a turning point for cricket in this country. Those who love and support the game are part of the solution and must play their part.”

The ECB insisted it welcomed the additional scrutiny, with interim chairman Barry O’Brien saying: “We are committed to eradicating racism – and other forms of discrimination – from our sport.

“We look forward to updating the committee on the progress the entire game is making in implementing the 12-point action plan agreed in November to bring about the meaningful changes we all desire. We agree that it is important to share regular public updates on our progress in order to restore confidence in our sport.”

Lord’s Taverners, a charity that gives under-represented members of the public access to cricket, also receives funding from the ECB. It said so in a statement I that it wants to help the governing body ensure that cricket is a sport for all.

The statement said: “We want to play a role in showing that cricket can be a vehicle for change and that a vibrant, culturally rich, diverse, safe, welcoming and empowering programming also addresses issues of racism, prejudice and inequality to achieve a number of other critical outcomes for communities.”

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