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Iron-eared county chairmen show why English cricket is in trouble | locust

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“TThe other thing about diversity is that the worlds of football and rugby are becoming much more appealing to the Afro-Caribbean community. As far as the South Asian community is concerned, we find that they do not want to spend the time necessary to take the next step. They prefer to go into the fields of education.

“I know a Caribbean player overseas… who called himself a ‘Token’, so there was a certain amount of humor in it… It’s hard to call that offensive.”

“We have a women’s section.

“We have a full-time physiotherapist. »

“I had dinner with Desmond Haynes recently.”

Thank you gentlemen. Thanks for coming. Thank you for throwing a totally unintended burst of light.

In the decades to come, as future historians of what was once the national summer sport come to pick up these jealously tended ashes, trying to understand how English cricket fostered its culture of exclusionary self-sabotage, they would do well to review the content of Tuesday’s morning hearing before the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee on how the county game hopes to address the diversity and reach issues identified by Azeem Rafiq and others over the past year.

Called to testify, Mike O’Farrell and Rod Bransgrove, the presidents of Middlesex and Hampshire, delivered an often timid, often painful performance, sometimes bordering on parody; but always illuminating unintentionally.

There were good intentions and fine words there, mixed with horrible ones, which gnawed at the elbows. Primarily, what the men in the committee room told us was exactly why English cricket is in trouble: because people like that are in charge.

The most notable moment came when O’Farrell tried to explain why black and South Asian cricketers don’t progress through his county’s academy to the first team. His comments, quoted at the top of this page, sparked a digital spasm of disbelief. They were then retracted and “clarified”, where “clarified” means using completely different words to describe a completely different idea. Which is at least a step towards saying the unspeakable out loud by mistake.

It was a moment of real double take. Here we had the chairman of a professional county in one of the largest and most diverse watersheds seeming to declare, with a reassuring smile, that the problem is that black people just don’t like cricket ; and that Asians are interested in school work and therefore not engaged enough.

Where to start ? Obviously, this involves taking a mundane observation and turning it into generalized gibberish. The popularity of football is not specific to pigments. Neither wants to do well in school. But these are tropes that are often trotted around in cricket, pub-chat nonsense that becomes genuinely restrictive, the blanket rejection of an entire slice of humanity, when trotted by the leader of a downward lane up to 11 years old. Ask yourself, Mike, why some of these kids prefer to go to school.

Perhaps the most important thing was that no one in the parliamentary committee room raised an eyebrow. Presented with entry-level stereotypes, literally the exact thing they were there to dissect, a room full of MPs and cricket chairmen just passed it on. They are people who occupy positions where there is a duty to be informed, to understand how talents are closed and opportunities denied. He’s there, right in front of you, speaking into the microphone. No one present heard a false note.

Within hours, Middlesex had issued an official rebuttal. “I totally accept that this misunderstanding is entirely due to my own lack of clarity…I was aiming to make the case that as a game, cricket has failed a generation of young cricketers,” O’Farrell said. And to be fair, he made exactly that point. But not in the way he had expected.

Overall, Bransgrove of Hampshire had an even more random time in front of the cameras. His first act was to deny that he had recently told a gathering of county presidents that he understood racism because he was a 60-year-old white male and the real problem is that people have “forgotten the value of the white man”. Ah. Potential problems there, Rod.

Bransgrove said it was “absolute nonsense” to suggest he would ever say that. Perhaps as an example, he began to offer his own absolute nonsense, including but not limited to the anecdote about “Token”, a story that seemed to make him feel good, as opposed to ashamed and uncomfortable.

At one point, Bransgrove said, “I don’t know how a streaker crosses the field. If you did that in public, you would be on the sex offender list. Rod: thanks for that. A little later, he suggested that one of the best things about cricket is that you don’t need height or muscle mass, and therefore is also open to “disadvantaged people”, which perhaps seem like to be in his mind living in Dickensian misery drinking rainwater. and eat fingernails. It was Rod who had dinner with Desmond Haynes. His favorite cricketer without a doubt. With Mr. Gordon Greenidge.

It is, of course, easy to laugh, without humor or fun, at the clueless executives tasked with overseeing cricket’s jumble of structural problems. And while we should still laugh at the clueless executives, it was the afternoon session at the DCMS committee that provided the most relevant action. Tom Harrison, the ECB’s chief executive, was unctuous and mildly nagged during the DCMS committee’s initial hearing in November. Here he came equipped with slogans, numbers and mission statements, a marketing man with his paw.

Harrison began by saying that everything in his seven years in charge of English cricket had been geared towards the growth of the game, and the Rafiq affair had only added further impetus to his reforming zeal. Both of these statements are patently false. Harrison has overseen a continued decline in the summer game. He also had knowledge of Rafiq’s complaint but only began to act or comment when public opinion left him no choice. But hi! Why waste a good line?

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There is now a hard side to these concerns. A quarter of a century after the first alarming report on systemic racism was given to the ECB, and after decades of facade, the DCMS committee has suggested that future public funding may depend on the ECB, showing that it is doing tangible efforts to remove barriers to entry and progression.

Nothing will be solved by these televised discussions. But by providing a stage for the shrewd corporate hijackings of the ECB, the half-formed thoughts of county presidents, they tell us at least one thing. It’s pretty obvious where the problem lies.

Iron-eared county chairmen show why English cricket is in trouble | locust

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