By: Pramod Thomas
THE England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) have pledged around £1million to install multi-faith prayer rooms at every county cricket ground before the season starts, according to a media report said.
The ECB is providing the grant as part of their attempt to improve the diversity of the sport, reported the MailOnline.
Part of ECB’s 12-point diversity action plan, the latest move is to make the first-class game more inclusive for players of all faiths and cultures, the report added.
The plan was unveiled last November after the sport was widely condemned for its handling of Rafiq’s allegations.
English counties are told to increase diversity after the sport was widely condemned for its handling of Azeem Rafiq’s racism allegations against Yorkshire.
According to the MailOnline, the governing body is making grants of up to £100,000 available to each county.
The seven main Test venues including Lord’s and the Oval already have multi-faith rooms. The 11 other counties that do not regularly host international cricket such as Leicestershire and Somerset have been told they must make their grounds more inclusive with the latest funding promise.
The MailOnline reported that the grants will also include money to improve county facilities in areas related to accessibility, such as better changing facilities for women players, the provision of sensory rooms and more accessible seating for fans with disabilities.
The report added that counties who do not meet the targets in the ECB’s action plan, which include making their boards 30 per cent female and representative of local ethnicity by April, will lose some of their annual funding from Lord’s.
Earlier, ECB chief executive Tom Harrison had said that the fallout from Rafiq’s appearance in front of a parliamentary select committee was an ‘earthquake’ for cricket.
Rafiq had alleged that he had been driven to “the brink of suicide” by his experiences of racial discrimination during two spells at Yorkshire between 2008 and 2018.
His complaints against Yorkshire extended to the lack of provision made for Muslims at the club, including not being provided with halal food at matches.
He also outlined how he had been forced to drink alcohol as a youngster, leading the ECB to demand the counties introduce widespread cultural changes.
The ECB action plan also includes compulsory diversity training at counties, the introduction of anonymised recruitment for senior roles and creating a standardised approach to reporting racism across cricket.
In February, Professional Cricketers’ Association chief executive Rob Lynch told British lawmakers that the organisation had made mistakes in how it dealt with Rafiq’s allegations of racism against Yorkshire.
Earlier this year, the parliamentary committee investigating the issue of racism in English cricket said that the sport must commit to “cleaning up its act” in order to qualify for future government funding.
The Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) urged the UK government to limit public funding for the game unless there is “demonstrable progress on ridding racist behaviour from clubs and among spectators”.
It also called on the ECB to develop a set of “key indicators” to measure their progress in combatting institutional racism, and to report back to the committee every quarter.
Rafiq later hailed these recommendations as ‘very impressive’.
During the DCMS hearings in November and December, testimony was heard from various parties involved with Yorkshire and English cricket, including Tom Harrison, the ECB chief executive, and Roger Hutton, who resigned as Yorkshire’s chairman at the height of the controversy, with Lord Kamlesh Patel appointed as his replacement.