Cricket chairman apologises for 'outdated' remarks over racial stereotypes in sport

26 January 2022, 05:32

Mike O’Farrell apologised after making the comments
Mike O’Farrell apologised after making the comments. Picture: Alamy/Parliament TV

By Emma Soteriou

A cricket chairman has been forced to issue a grovelling apology after his "outdated" comments to MPs regarding race stereotypes in sport.

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Middlesex chief Mike O’Farrell said football and rugby had become "much more attractive to the Afro-Caribbean community", adding that cricket was sometimes "secondary" to education for South Asian players.

He had been speaking to MPs on the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) committee, in a bid to defend the club's plans to tackle racism.

However, Mr O'Farrell's comments saw a huge backlash online, with sportsmen and women - including player Azeem Rafiq, who previously revealed he suffered racial discrimination while at Yorkshire Cricket Club - suggesting it reflected the stark reality of the problems the sport faced.

Following the criticism, the chairman released a statement saying: "First and foremost, I wish to offer my wholehearted apologies for the misunderstanding that my comments made at this morning's DCMS Select Committee hearing have evidently caused.

"I wholly accept that this misunderstanding is entirely down to my own lack of clarity and context in the answers I provided, and I am devastated that my comments have led to the conclusions some have made.

"For the purposes of clarification, I was aiming to make the point that as a game, cricket has failed a generation of young cricketers, in systematically failing to provide them with the same opportunities that other sports and sectors so successfully provide."

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During the committee meeting, Azeem Rafiq tweeted: "This has just confirmed what a endemic problem the game has.

"I actually can’t believe what I am listening to."

The former Yorkshire player broke his silence on racisms in the sport last year when he told MPs the word 'P***' was "used constantly" across his two spells at Yorkshire and no one in leadership challenged it.

Rafiq said he was close to taking his own life as he detailed the "inhuman" treatment he encountered, adding he felt "isolated, humiliated at times".

In response to Mike O’Farrell's comments, ex-England player Ebony Rainford-Brent said: "Honestly these outdated views in the game are exactly why we are in this position.

"Unfortunately the decision makers hold onto these myths.

"'The Black community only like football, and Asian community only interested in education’.

"Seriously the game deserves better."

Read more: Rafiq tells LBC: 'If you apologise for racism you deserve a second chance'

Read more: Cricketer Rafiq claims 'institutional racism' at club as he details 'inhuman' bullying

Yorkshire could discover next week if their right to stage international matches at Headingley will be restored.

The county had lucrative matches scheduled for this summer removed from them by the England and Wales Cricket Board last November over their handling of an investigation into allegations of racial harassment and bullying by Azeem Rafiq.

Members of Yorkshire's leadership team, including new chair Lord Kamlesh Patel, will make a presentation to the ECB next Tuesday, with club members voting on changes to the county's board structure at an extraordinary general meeting the following day.