Cricket News By TODAYLIVESCORE.INFO - ECB chief refutes Hutton's claims. Tom Harrison said he had "huge confidence" that the process would be a "very thorough and full" investigation
Tom Harrison said he had "huge confidence" that the process would be a "very thorough and full" investigation
Tom Harrison, chief executive of the ECB, has refuted claims by Yorkshire's outgoing chair, Roger Hutton, that the governing body failed to support the county address allegations of racism and harassment made by Azeem Rafiq.
Hutton, who announced his resignation on Friday morning (November 5), said he had contacted the ECB for support once he first became aware of Rafiq's allegations last year but was “saddened” when the ECB did not get involved at that stage. “It is a matter of record that I have continually expressed my frustration at the ECB's reluctance to act,” Hutton said in a statement.
In response, Harrison said that as the regulator of the game, it was not appropriate for the ECB to conduct a joint investigation with Yorkshire as the club requested. “What we were asked to do was join the Yorkshire panel to be part of the investigation which clearly we cannot do,” Harrison said. “We are the regulator, we either run the investigation in its entirety ourselves or we let our stakeholders run an investigation in the entirety itself.
“But a quasi-kind of involvement being regulated and part of the membership of an investigation is completely against the role that we play. So I'm afraid that I disagree entirely with [the] characterisation of that statement.”
The ECB have now initiated their own regulatory process as Yorkshire's investigations have concluded. Harrison said the ECB had hired a specialist QC to oversee the proceedings which will be conducted by the Cricket Disciplinary Commission (CDC), a body independent of the ECB. Harrison said he had “huge confidence” that the process would be a “very thorough and full” investigation. In the meantime, the ECB have suspended Yorkshire from hosting international cricket.
The steps the ECB have taken followed a series of developments this week. Several MPs have criticised Yorkshire's handling of Rafiq's case while sponsors including Nike and Yorkshire Tea have terminated their agreements with the county. It follows Yorkshire's decision not to take disciplinary action on any of their players or staff despite the independent investigation concluding that Rafiq had been subject to “racial harassment and bullying”.
Harrison said the measures the ECB had put in place were not as a response to the involvement of politicians or sponsors but rather related to Yorkshire's decision. “It was about the game being dragged through the mud and the disrepute as a result of the press statement that was made by Yorkshire CCC last week that no action was going to be taken in response to the upheld allegations of racism that the investigation had yielded,” Harrison said.
“I think that was the moment where we felt that we were going to be dealing with something very different – not a breach of regulations per se, but a breach of the set of values that we have in cricket and the strategy that we've adopted and the contract that you have with people about their involvement in this game, that unwritten contract that the game will be there for you. That is where the problem lay.
“It became very clear very quickly that we would have to take significant action because actually the message was that cricket is light on racism. And there is no way on earth that that can ever be a message. Racism has no place in this sport. Any form of discrimination has no place in this sport. We need to take decisive action because Yorkshire have failed to do that, so we did.”
Harrison admitted that trust needs to be built between the ECB and communities who will have felt let down by the handling of Rafiq's allegations. “In the past we haven't been able to get certain South Asian communities in particular to trust the ECB to represent their views and to take action where necessary,” he said. “I don't think we have ever had it so I hope to build that trust.
“We do that by taking action, by being uncompromising about perspectives on matters such as racism and by sending a clear message that it won't be tolerated and that we will take action against it where there is clear evidence of it having taken place. Through a range of measures and processes, we will slowly be able to build trust with communities that have frankly felt let down by the response of the sport of cricket to issues that have happened in the past.”
When asked whether the game of cricket was at a crossroads in the UK, Harrison said: “I think it feels like an opportunity, to re-assess what matters to us, what do we stand for as a game, what's important. We have a strategy that is about reaching out to families, to diverse communities, to children and young people, and we have seen if we are prepared to put the hard work in and make tough decisions, the result you're looking for can be achieved, which is growth, engagement, people having a sense of belonging, people feeling welcome.
“What this issue has highlighted is that we have a long way to go but it shouldn't deflect from the good work being done, the growth that is being achieved, or in fact that strong action is being taken in response to this where trust has been breached, where there is a fault line, where there are problems. The message we're sending out is we are taking action and we will listen. We hope this is the start of things. I don't know if that's a crossroads but it's an opportunity to reaffirm what we stand for as a sport.”