Cricket must address racism: Former England international Roland Butcher fed up

County Cricket

Roland Butcher, the first black cricketer to represent England, believes the time for just talking about racial issues is over and has called for tangible change to take place.

Azeem Rafiq’s claims of institutional racism in his two spells at Yorkshire led to an explosive appearance before the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) select committee in November and has prompted much soul-searching within cricket.

New Yorkshire chair Lord Patel has overseen a shake-up of the backroom staff following his appointment while the England and Wales Cricket Board two months ago announced a 12-point action plan to tackle all forms of discrimination.

Azeem Rafiq's allegations of racism of Yorkshire have rocked cricket to its core (House of Commons/PA)
Azeem Rafiq’s allegations of racism of Yorkshire have rocked cricket to its core (House of Commons/PA)

Butcher, who played three Tests and three one-day internationals at the start of the 1980s, said: “I’m not interested in the words, I want to see action.

Azeem Rafiq criticises Mike O’Farrell’s comments on lack of diversity in cricket

“When I can look and say, ‘Yes, that has been done’ then for sure I will be comfortable. Talk is cheap and promises are a comfort to a fool. I want to see action.”

ECB chief executive Tom Harrison’s position has come under scrutiny in the last couple of months, with the governing body receiving criticism for its initial hands-off approach to Rafiq’s allegations.

But Harrison insisted he has received the backing of the game’s chief decision-makers to lead cricket through the scandal and Butcher has urged the ECB to correct course, which he feels could shape other sports’ attitudes towards diversity.

Speaking at a ‘Bat For A Chance’ event outside the Kensington Oval in Barbados to facilitate kit donations to projects in the country, Butcher added: “I would have liked the ECB to have stepped in earlier.

ECB chief executive Tom Harrison has pledged to lead the game out of the crisis (Hollie Adams/PA)
ECB chief executive Tom Harrison has pledged to lead the game out of the crisis (Hollie Adams/PA)

“I thought they took too long to get hold of the situation and deal with it, but the fact is they’ve got hold of it now, so I will wait and see how that pans out.

“They’ve got a lot of work to do, a lot of people are very much on their case because a lot of people feel that they really have had their head in the sand but they’ve got a great opportunity now to put things right.

“They can really set the tone for the future and not just send a message for cricket but lead some of the other sports who at this moment in time will be struggling with their own problems with diversity.

“You’re going to have persons from all walks of background involved in sport. If you can get a level playing field for everyone then everybody can benefit from that.”

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