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Men’s Cricket ECB chief says ‘earthquake’ has hit cricket after Azeem Rafiq racism revelations

ENGLAND and Wales Cricket board 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 today 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.”

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.”

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