‘It stings’: Sunak says he experienced racism growing up
The ECB approached the problems in English cricket in ‘the right way’: prime minister
Prime minister Rishi Sunak
PRIME Minister Rishi Sunak has acknowledged having experienced racism while growing up in Southampton.
Reacting to last week’s damning report that claimed discrimination in English cricket, he said racism “stings” and “hurts”.
Sunak, son of an Indian-origin couple who migrated to the UK from east Africa, told the BBC: “Of course, I have experienced racism growing up, in particular, and of course, I know it exists.”
It “stings you in a way that very few other things do. It stings you. It does hurt,” he said and recalled a family outing when he was subjected to abuse.
“One time, which I’ve talked about in the past, where I was with my younger brother and sister out and about in Southampton and some people said a bunch of things and I felt doubly bad because I felt bad about it. But I had my younger brother and sister with me and I didn’t want them to hear it and be exposed to it. It was really hard.”
But he said the UK has evolved as a society over the years although more should be done.
“Those instances I suffered as a child I don’t think would happen to my kids today because we have made incredible progress as a country.”
He told the broadcaster during the second Ashes Test between England and Australia: “Of course, there are pockets where we are not doing as well and we have to strive to be better.”
Sunak, 43, said, “there is no place for racism or sexism or anything else in our society and where we find it, we should stamp it out”.
During his Conservative leadership bid last year, Sunak had denied the colour of his skin had any bearing on his chances of leading the party and the government. He had pointed out his election to the Commons which according to him showed that voters chose merit and not race.
He said it was “sad” to read the independent commission’s report into equity in cricket, published in the wake of a racism scandal centred around the treatment of Pakistan-born bowler Azeem Rafiq at English side Yorkshire.
Rafiq went public with allegations of racism and bullying in 2020, prompting the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) to commission the report.
Six former Yorkshire players found guilty of using racist language in the Rafiq case were last month fined by the Cricket Discipline Commission.
Of the more than 4,000 individuals interviewed for the ICEC report, 50 per cent described experiencing discrimination in the previous five years, with the figures substantially higher for people from ethnically diverse communities.
Women were often treated as “second-class citizens”, the report found, also stating that not enough had been done to address class barriers, with private schools dominating the pathway into cricket.
Sunak told the BBC: “It was, for people who love cricket, really hard to read and you were just sad.”
A total of 44 recommendations were made in the report, including a call for equal pay for male and female international players by 2030.
Sunak said the ECB was “absolutely committed” to fixing the problems outlined in the report.
“I have spent a little bit of the morning talking to the team at the ECB and I think they have approached it in exactly the right way,” he said.
“They commissioned this report off their own back because they wanted to be proactive so they deserve credit for that.”
Sunak hopes the report provides cricket with a chance to reset its moral compass.
“They have offered an unreserved apology and are fully committed to implementing change and for this to be a reset moment for cricket,” he said.
“We all want it to be open for everybody from all backgrounds and where everyone can feel respect and supported when playing it.
“So that’s what we want and I’m confident the whole cricketing family share that ambition.”