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Azeem Rafiq attacks Middlesex chair Mike O’Farrell over ‘painful’ comments to MPs investigating racism in cricket

The chair of Middlesex County Cricket Club has been accused of making “painful” and “outdated” comments to a committee of MPs investigating racism in the sport.

Mike O’Farrell said football and rugby were “more attractive” to the black community, and that South Asians “don’t want to commit to the next step [of cricket] because they prefer to go to other educational fields”.

Former cricketers branded the comments as “removed from reality” and “outdated”.

Azeem Rafiq, who spoke out last year about racism in the sport, tweeted: “This has just confirmed what an endemic problem the game has. I actually can’t believe what I am listening to.”

He added: “Painful listen, just shows how far removed from reality these people are.”

Ex-England international Ebony Rainford-Brent also said the views were “just painful”, adding: “Honestly, these outdated views in the game are exactly why we are in this position.

“Unfortunately decision makers hold onto these myths. Seriously, the game deserves better.”

Mr O’Farrell’s comments came in evidence to a parliamentary committee that is questioning county clubs and the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) on progress made since Rafiq spoke out about his experience of racism while playing for Yorkshire.

Rafiq’s testimony prompted other players to come forward with similar experiences, triggering a scandal in the game and accusations of widespread racism.

The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee also questioned the ECB during its session on Tuesday.

It comes as cricket’s governing body revealed more details of its 12-point plan to tackle racism and promote diversity.

Announced in November, it includes an anti-discrimination unit, which the ECB now says will be operational by the end of May.

There will also be a “full review of dressing room culture” beginning in February and running across this season, with findings published in September.

It is being led by ECB figures alongside county clubs, the Professional Cricketers Association and external experts.

An independent whistleblowing system with standard procedures will be established by the end of February, while a target of 30% female, locally representative ethnicity at board level should be in place at county sides by April 2022.

The ECB is also promising to help people from diverse backgrounds through talent scouting, support programmes, and education and diversity of coaches.

It says it will work with each county to develop tailored plans this season.

“This is the first of the regular updates that the ECB committed to provide when it announced the action plan in November,” said the ECB.

“The intention is to provide further information about the actions under way across the cricket network, including the initial steps that have been taken in respect of each commitment and the anticipated timetable for full delivery of the plan.”

However, two county cricket bosses told the committee that the ECB was not “fit for purpose”.

Rod Bransgrove, of Hampshire CCC, said it was “almost impossible to get a decision that is totally free from some bias” from the organisation.



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