• Wednesday, December 06, 2023


Middlesex chair apologises after lack of diversity comments

An anti-racism banner outside Headingley.

By: Sattwik Biswal

FORMER England player Ebony Rainford-Brent has called Middlesex chairman comments on black and south Asian interest in cricket as “painful” and “outdated”.

Mike O’Farrell said football and rugby become “much more attractive to the Afro-Caribbean community” and cricket for south Asian players was sometimes “secondary” to education.

O’Farrell was speaking at a Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) select committee hearing where Yorkshire, Hampshire and Glamorgan were also part as how cricket plans to tackle racism.

According to Rainford-Brent, such “outdated views” were “exactly” why cricket is under pressure to tackle racism and make the sport inclusive.

However, O’Farrell has offered his “wholehearted apologies” for the “misunderstanding” his comments has caused during the hearing.

“I wholly accept that this misunderstanding is entirely down to my own lack of clarity and context in the answers I provided, and I am devastated that my comments have led to the conclusions some have made,” he was quoted as saying.

He added: “For the purposes of clarification, I was aiming to make the point that as a game, cricket has failed a generation of young cricketers, in systematically failing to provide them with the same opportunities that other sports and sectors so successfully provide.”

Earlier this month a parliamentary report had recommended that government should limit public funding for the sport until progress is made to eradicate “deep-seated racism” from cricket.

In November, Azeem Rafiq had told DCMS select committee that English cricket was “institutionally racist”, and on O’Farrell’s comments the former Yorkshire players said on Twitter “what an endemic problem the game has”.

“Shows how far removed from reality these people are,” Rafiq said. “This has just confirmed what an endemic problem the game has. I actually can’t believe what I am listening to.”

Azeem Rafiq
FILE PHOTO: Azeem Rafiq of Yorkshire appeals during a NatWest T20 blast between Yorkshire Vikings and Durham at Headingley. (Photo by Richard Sellers/Getty Images)

What exactly O’Farrell said during the hearing?

“The football and rugby world becomes much more attractive to the Afro-Caribbean community,” O’Farrell said.

“In terms of the South Asian community, we’re finding that they do not want necessarily to commit the same time that is necessary to go the next step.

“They sometimes prefer to go into other educational fields and then cricket becomes secondary, and part of that is because it’s a more time-consuming sport than some others.”

Eastern Eye

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