ECB lacked ‘backbone’ for not calling out Lord Botham’s criticism of ICEC report

The England and Wales Cricket Board showed a lack of “backbone” in failing to call out Lord Botham’s criticism of a key report on discrimination in the sport, the chair of the report commission has told MPs.

The Independent Commission for Equity in Cricket report published last June found racism was entrenched in cricket and that women routinely experience sexism and misogyny within the sport. It found cricket was still an elitist sport with little to no focus given to addressing class barriers.

Former England all-rounder and Durham chairman Botham, 68, described the ICEC findings as “nonsense” and the commission of the report by the ECB as a “complete and utter waste of money”. He added that he had not been contacted by the ICEC for his opinions, and did not know of anyone who had.

ICEC chair Cindy Butts told MPs on the Culture Media and Sport select committee that she felt the ECB’s response to those comments had been weak.

“I was disappointed that the ECB didn’t call out Lord Botham, the chair of a first-class cricket county. His words carry weight. The ECB didn’t see fit to come out and actually say ‘this is wrong’,” she said.

“Not only did they stay quiet, they resisted calls from stakeholders and people who were concerned about Mr Botham’s comments and they chose to stay silent.

“I think they should have had a moral backbone on this issue.”

Butts said Botham’s response also raised concerns for her over how anyone blowing the whistle on discrimination at Durham might be treated.

“There are a number of untruths that he spoke about the report,” Butts said.

“But the most disappointing thing for me is that Lord Botham is the chair of a first-class county. What confidence can those within the county who may suffer racism, sexism, class-based discrimination have… that something will be done about it?

“I was personally disappointed, not least because he’s a sporting hero of mine. The impact Lord Botham had on me as a young working-class woman growing up in Shepherd’s Bush was really quite profound.”

Durham CCC have been contacted by the PA news agency for a response from Botham.

The chair, chief executive and deputy chief executive of the ECB are due to appear before the committee later on Tuesday.