Racism in cricket: ECB reveals 12-point plan to address the sport’s ongoing scandal

England and Wales Cricket chief executive Tom Harrison has not ruled out an independent regulator for cricket after admitting an “earthquake” had hit the sport in the last few weeks.

The ECB published a 12-point, game-wide action plan on Friday to tackle racism and all forms of discrimination in the game, following Azeem Rafiq’s testimony to MPs earlier this month about the abuse he suffered at Yorkshire.

“The last few weeks have been very, very tough for cricket. It feels like an earthquake has hit us,” Harrison said.

“The most damning part of Azeem’s testimony is that he didn’t want his son to be part of the game. That is, for someone in my job, the most difficult thing you can hear.”

Described as “a critical moment for cricket” by ECB interim chair Barry O’Brien, England’s governing body pledged £25m of strategic funding over five years to implement changes – some of which will be “immediate” while others will be introduced as part of a “review period”.

It will also form a new anti-discrimination unit, within six months, “to ensure that the ECB has the right resources and capabilities to help tackle discrimination”.

One of the points in the action plan is a governance review of the ECB. In a week where a fan-led review recommended an independent regulator for football, Harrison said it was appropriate that the review should at least consider whether that was the best way forward for cricket too.

“We had a meeting yesterday with the county chairs… whether we should be the regulator and the national governing body going forward,” he said.

“That conversation is one we’re going to have with the game as well.

“I think it’s the right time for us now to go back as a collective again and work out whether we have got the right governance structures, given the pressures and the uniquely different role that ECB plays now as a major sport, with the multiple hats that we have to wear, overseeing the game as we do.

“If a governance review comes back with a recommendation (that an independent regulator is appropriate) then you’ve got to have a very good reason not to go along with that recommendation.”

The ECB’s regulatory processes – and why it had not intervened to investigate Rafiq’s allegations at an earlier stage – were questioned by the same Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee who heard from Rafiq.

The plan looks at understanding and education more, addressing dressing-room culture, removing barriers in the talent pathway, creating a welcoming environment for all and publishing localised EDI action plans within six months.

Some of the measures agreed by the game-wide response to racism will be implemented immediately like EDI training for all those who work in cricket and the adoption of anonymised recruitment tools for senior roles.

There are others with a deadline in mind, like targets for board diversity to include 30 per cent female or locally representative ethnicity by April of next year. Compliance will be subject to a “comply or explain” provision.

ECB central funding could be withheld where EDI minimum standards are not met, the governing body said.

The plan also commits the sport to adopting a standardised approach to reporting, investigating and responding to complaints, allegations and whistleblowing across the game within three months.

Harrison was asked whether he had considered his own position amid the racism scandal.

“I’m so committed to sorting this issue with the game,” he said.

“I understand I have the backing of the game and I am very motivated to make sure we provide this welcoming environment across our sport, for everybody.

“That is something I’ve felt passionately about since the moment I walked into this job, and I’m not going to walk away from that now.”

ECB’s 12-point plan to tackle racism in cricket

Understanding and educating more

1. Adoption within three months of a standardised approach to reporting, investigating, and responding to complaints, allegations, and whistleblowing across the game.

2. Full promotion of the aims of the Independent Commission for Equity in Cricket (ICEC) through proactive engagement with its investigations and recommendations.

3. Ongoing EDI training for all those who work in cricket, including all staff, volunteers, recreational club officials, umpires, directors, and coaches.

Addressing dressing room culture

4. A full review of dressing room culture in all men’s and women’s professional teams, both domestic and international.

5. Delivery of a redesigned programme of player and coach education, addressing any gaps identified through the dressing room review.

Removing barriers in talent pathways

6. Action to aid progress into professional teams of people from diverse backgrounds (especially South Asian, Black and less privileged youngsters) through measures to address i) talent identification and scouting, ii) education and diversity of coaches and iii) targeted support programmes for players from diverse or under-privileged backgrounds.

Creating welcoming environments for all

7. A full-scale review, in advance of the 2022 season, into the detection, enforcement, and sanctions against discriminatory and abusive crowd behaviour at each of our professional cricket grounds.

8. Delivery of plans (tailored to local communities) to ensure professional cricket venues are welcoming to all, including provision of accessible seating, food and beverage offering catering to all faiths and cultures, and the availability of facilities such as multi-faith rooms and alcohol-free zones.

9. Upgraded education in recreational cricket to ensure players, volunteers and coaches understand and champion inclusion and diversity in the game.

Publishing localised EDI Action Plans within six months

The ECB will today publish its 2021-2023 Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) Action Plan with clear actions and targets. The ECB will then work with any of its members who do not yet have an EDI plan in place to create (or revise) their own localised version within six months, with actions to include:

10. A commitment to best practice governance with targets for Board diversity (30% female, locally representative ethnicity by April 2022) and plans to increase diversity across the wider organisation.

11. The introduction of fairer recruitment processes through measures including the immediate adoption of anonymised recruitment tools for senior roles, open appointment processes for all roles and the use of balanced and diverse panels to assess interviews.

12. Every senior executive employed across the game will have personal EDI objectives as part of their annual performance targets, driving leadership accountability.

(c) Sky Sports 2021: Racism in cricket: ECB reveals 12-point plan to address the sport’s ongoing scandal

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