Middlesex chairman criticised for comments on Black and Asian interest in cricket

·3 min read
O’Farrell has been heavily criticised for comments made in front of the DCMS select committee  (Parliament TV)
O’Farrell has been heavily criticised for comments made in front of the DCMS select committee (Parliament TV)

The chairman of Middlesex County Cricket Club has been criticised for comments made about Black and Asian interest in the sport.

Appearing in front of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) select committee alongside several other county chairmen, Mike O’Farrell claimed that prospective South Asian players preferred to pursue education, and that football and rugby were “more attractive” to people from the “Afro-Caribbean community”.

O’Farrell’s remarks were made as part of a hearing conducted by DCMS following the release of the department’s report on racism in cricket, which was published on Friday 14 January.

“The football and rugby worlds become more attractive to the Afro-Caribbean community,” O’Farrell stated. “In terms of the South Asian community, we are finding that they do not want to commit the same time that is necessary to go to the next step because they prefer to go into other educational fields.

“Cricket then becomes secondary. Partly because it is a more time-consuming sport than some others.

“That is changing with Twenty20 and the one-day game. We are finding that it is coming full circle because there is much more choice and variation in the game, and therefore the South Asian community, young men and particularly young women, are finding [cricket] a much more attractive sport. We are moving it forward, but not as fast as we would like to.”

The comments were not directly challenged by the DCMS committee.

Former Yorkshire cricketer Azeem Rafiq, whose allegations of racial harassment and bullying at the county have resulted in this investigation, was left hugely disappointed by the comments.

“Painful listen and just shows how far removed from reality these people are,” Rafiq wrote on Twitter. “Overachieving? Am I hearing this?

“This has just confirmed what a endemic problem the game has. I actually can’t believe what I am listening to.”

Among other critics was former England batter Ebony Rainford-Brent, now a director at Surrey and chair of the ACE Programme, which is “designed to engage young people of African and Caribbean Heritage and inspire the wider game to support reconnecting with the Black community”.

“Honestly these outdated views in the game are exactly why we are in this position,” Rainford-Brent, the first Black woman to play for England, tweeted.

“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.”

Ex-Australia spinner Lisa Sthalekar questioned if O’Farrell had spoken to those at grassroots level, and suggested that “diversity at the board level” is required to affect change.

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), who were also questioned at the DCMS hearing, today announced a partnership with Kick It Out in an attempt to address issues of diversity, equality and inclusion within the sport.

The governing body also released an update on progress made on the action plan tackle to racism and promote inclusion and diversity, which was announced in November of last year.

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