English cricket apologizes to Azeem Rafiq and pledges to act against racism | Azeem Rafiq | Local News

English cricket apologizes to Azeem Rafiq and pledges to act against racism | Azeem Rafiq

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England cricket has issued a wholehearted apology to Azeem Rafiq, saying the racism he has suffered is a bane to the game, before promising to take swift action to restore confidence.

The apology, which came after crisis talks at the Oval between the ECB, First Class Counties and other key stakeholders in the sport, praised the former Yorkshire player for ‘shining a light on our game which shocked, ashamed and saddened us all ”and pledged to publish a 12-point action plan on Wednesday.

“Racism and discrimination are a scourge on our game,” the joint statement said. “To Azeem and to all those who have experienced any form of discrimination, we are very sorry. Our sport did not welcome you, our game did not accept you as we should have. We wholeheartedly apologize for your suffering.

Meanwhile, ECB Managing Director Tom Harrison, whose job was believed to be in jeopardy after a faltering performance in front of MPs on Tuesday, emerged from the meeting saying he maintains support for the game – and is now determined to embrace change.

ECB Managing Director Tom Harrison
ECB Managing Director Tom Harrison has said he is determined to adopt changes. Photograph: Justin Tallis / AFP / Getty Images

“I got the support of the game today absolutely,” he said. “And I am determined to lead this change through cricket. I feel passionate about this question. It’s something that I feel deep inside me. I have tried to lead an inclusive and diverse sport since I took over as GM in 2015. I feel very motivated and very supported to make the change happen in the game.

“What are the reasons why we have cultural difficulties in the locker room? What are the reasons why this heinous behavior of racism in our game has attacked the high performance space? These are the kinds of areas we will take a closer look at, and publish on Wednesday. “

Harrison’s comments were largely long in platitudes and short in detail. However, he admitted: “What we need to do is make sure we listen to victims of racism. The ECB has these processes in place, I think in the future it is more than likely to step in immediately to take action to fully understand and investigate.

“We focused on the action today,” he added. “Speaking to the cricket fans who will be watching the game as a whole very carefully for tangible action, this is what we are going to deliver. Whether it’s culture change in the dressing room, staff recruitment standards throughout the game, a range of different points across 12 areas. We will look for concrete actions to make sure we have an impact on the ground. “

The talks came at the end of another scorching week for the sport, which began with Rafiq’s shocking revelations of institutional racism in cricket before the digital, culture, media and sport select committee. Since then, fellow cricketer Alex Hales has apologized after a photo of him appeared in blackface in 2009, while Rafiq also apologized for the anti-Semitic comments he made to the age 19.

Sports Secretary Nigel Huddleston on Thursday warned cricketer the government would be ready to take the ‘nuclear option’ to impose a regulator and examine how sport was funded if it didn’t make a change significant in weeks or months.

And cricket officials appear to be heeding that warning by promising further discussions and a plan of action next week.

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“We stand in solidarity against discrimination in all its forms, and are united as a sport to act,” they added in a statement. “We will continue to listen and make rapid, positive changes to the culture of the game. We will embrace and celebrate differences everywhere, knowing that with diversity we are stronger.

“As a game we discussed a series of tangible commitments to making cricket a sport where everyone feels safe and where everyone feels included. We will now finalize the detail and publish these actions next week. Our game must regain your trust.

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