It’s just not cricket – Racism in English sport

The Independent Commission for Equity in Cricket has published the findings of a two-year long investigation into English cricket, and they are surprising and shocking, particularly in a country where the Prime Minister is of Indian origin and which prides itself on its diversity.

The Commission has concluded that racism, sexism and classism are “entrenched” in the sport of cricket.  

The report, named “Holding a Mirror Up to Cricket”, found that “deeply rooted and widespread forms of structural and institutional racism, sexism and class-based discrimination continue to exist across the game.”

The results show that discrimination is rife and often goes unchallenged, with a culture that seems to encourage and facilitate discriminatory behaviour.

These behaviours include “racist, misogynistic, homophobic and ableist comments and actions, and a ‘laddish’ drinking culture that can sometimes make women vulnerable and at risk of unwanted or unwelcome behaviour, as well as alienating others due to religious and/or cultural beliefs.”

A very important aspect of the report was that this behaviour and culture is not just found in pockets, or due to “some bad apples”, but is in fact a structural issue.

The ICEC also conducted a survey which revealed that 87% of people of Pakistani and Bangladeshi heritage, 82% of Indian and 75% of black respondents reported having experienced discrimination.

The results of the report are strikingly similar to a Purpose Union survey and report that was published earlier this year, commissioned by the Rugby Football Union, Premiership Rugby and the Rugby Player’s Association.

Per the survey: “The interviews found experiences of racism in every area of elite rugby covered – men’s and women’s game, national team, clubs and academies.”

These mostly took the form of discriminatory comments and were repeated offences, not one-off occurrences. It led to players either leaving the game entirely, or changing the way they spoke and hiding their identity.

The survey was commissioned after former England professional Luther Burrell claimed that racist banter was normalised in the English Premiership and national team. Burrell pointed to a racist comment in a Premiership player Whatsapp group as evidence, and the report found that Burrell’s claims were true based on the “balance of probabilities”.

At the French Open in May, British tennis player Dan Evans made the claim that British tennis is too elitist. He said: “I just don’t think there’s a chance for people from working-class backgrounds to get into the sport and get a chance if their parents don’t have money.”

In football, racism continues to blight the English Premier League and national team. Newcastle player Joelinton revealed recently that he suffered racist abuse after a loss against Arsenal.

Racism has been an important point of attention in recent years, with players taking the knee before games and campaigns such as “Kick racism out of football”. However, Joelinton commented: “We talk about a combat against racism but we didn’t have much of a change.”

The ICEC report stated that “The problems we identify are not, sadly, unique to cricket. In many instances they are indicative of equally deeply rooted societal problems.”

Sport in the UK is supposed to be for everyone. Based on recent evidence across these sports, there is still a long way to go until that goal is achieved. Lawyers across the country will be receiving calls from their sports clients soon, if not already.